Nine new officials are set to make their NFL debut this season, including the first permanent female official and the son of a veteran white hat. The NFL released the names on Wednesday morning.
The hiring of Sarah Thomas to break the gender barrier has been the worst kept secret in officiating circles. After her second year in the league’s developmental program, our sources weren’t doubting Thomas was a sure hire for 2015. Sources also indicate that the executive suite was pushing for her debut in 2014, but vice president of officiating Dean Blandino wanted her to have a second season in the developmental program.
Walt Coleman IV was also hired as a side judge, joining his father who was called up by the league in 1989. The younger Coleman has worked in the developmental program and in the NCAA as a line judge. The elder Coleman is the longest tenured active official.
All of the new officials were in the league’s developmental program that was created as part of the 2012 collective bargaining agreement with the officials union. For the 2015 season, the league will have 22 officials who will be entering their first or second season. From 2010 through 2013, there was a total of only eight new officials hired.
Football Zebras can confirm that umpire Darrell Jenkins has left the league. This means that there are four vacancies that we are aware of (two umpires, a head linesman, and a back judge). Since the league did not hire enough umpires, it appears that the officiating department will fill one of the umpire positions with an official that potentially could be elevated to the referee position.
As for the remainder of the hires, the league will announce the roster after the May 15 officiating offseason is formally completed. Our sources have said they do not believe there will be nine vacancies. Likely, there will be a few officials that will work in a “swing” capacity to fill in for injured officials or to be rotated into a different crew each week. One source speculated that having a number of swing officials on the bench allows the league to replace officials that do not pass written tests or conditioning standards.
The list of the nine new officials:
|LJ||16||Kevin Codey||2||Western New England||American Athletic||Terry McAulay|
|SJ||87||Walt Coleman IV||1||Southern Methodist||Big 12||Walt Anderson|
|HL||94||Hugo Cruz||2||Texas-Pan American||Conference USA||Gerry Austin|
|HL||2||Bart Longson||1||Brigham Young||Pac-12||Tony Corrente/Jim Blackwood|
|U||19||Clay Martin||2||Tulsa||Conference USA||Gerry Austin|
|SJ||Jonah Monroe||2||American Athletic||Terry McAulay|
|SJ||50||Aaron Santi||1||Southern Oregon||Pac-12||Tony Corrente/Jim Blackwood|
|FJ||14||Shawn Smith||1||Ferris State||Big Ten||Bill Carollo|
|LJ||53||Sarah Thomas||2||Mobile||Conference USA||Gerry Austin|
|SJ||26||Jabir Walker||2||Murray State||SEC||Steve Shaw|
*indicates the number of years in the NFL officiating development program, which has existed for two years.
Dean Blandino says he expects the 9 new NFL officials to replace 7-8 departing. A couple swing officials.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) April 8, 2015