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Sarah Thomas to become NFL's first full-time female official, report says

Referee trainee Sarah Thomas, right, talks to Cleveland

Referee trainee Sarah Thomas, right, talks to Cleveland Browns equipment manager Brad Melland during a mandatory minicamp practice at the NFL football team's facility in Berea, Ohio Thursday, June 12, 2014. Thomas, who has officiated NCAA college games, is taking part in the NFL's referee development program. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) Credit: AP

The National Football League is poised to hire its first full-time female official, according to a report.

Sarah Thomas, who has officiated college games for Conference USA since 2007 as well as a preseason game for the NFL last summer, will join the ranks of NFL officials for the 2015 season, the Baltimore Sun reported. Thomas has been a participant in the league's Officiating Development Program and has worked at practices for the New Orleans Saints.

The NFL has not confirmed the appointment. "The 2015 roster of officials has not yet been finalized," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in a statement.

The league is waiting for candidates to pass their physical exams and complete other formalities before announcing the new hires. There will reportedly be eight new officials for 2015, replacing four who have retired. The extras will likely be used as "floating" officials and not assigned to a particular crew.

It is unclear if Thomas will be in a regular crew or be a floater.

Besides being the first female official in college football, Thomas, born in 1973, also was the first to work a college bowl game. In 2009, she was the line judge for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Marshall and Ohio.

Thomas attended the University of Mobile in Alabama on a basketball scholarship.

In an interview last year, Thomas, a native of Mississippi and mother of three, told the NFL Network she does not consider herself a groundbreaker.

"I set out to do this and get involved in officiating not having any idea that there were not any females officiating football," she said. "Being a former basketball player, you saw female officiating all the time, so no, I don't feel like a pioneer."

Thomas will not be the first woman to officiate an NFL regular-season game. Shannon Eastin was hired as a nonunion replacement during the 2012 lockout of NFL officials.

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