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Sarah Thomas promotion on hold for now with 2nd year in development program




21 advanced training officials include 7 from ’13 taxi squad

The NFL has released the names of the college officials who will participate in the 2014 advanced training program.  The list includes two women: Sarah Thomas returns for a second year and Maia Chaka joins the program for her first year.

What is interesting about this year’s list is the return of Sarah Thomas.  Last year, the NFL made Thomas very accessible to media interviews and the conventional wisdom was that she was assured of being hired for 2014.  Yet, in a year that may see 10 new officials, Thomas is still in the advanced training program and not a full time NFL official.  It must be noted that Thomas is a line judge and no line judge positions were open this season; however a comparable head linesman position was open for 2014 but it went to another candidate. An officiating source told Football Zebras that the NFL “can’t fail with Thomas, and so they are going to work her in another season of training.”

You may see another familiar name: Walt Coleman IV, son of current referee Walt Coleman, is in his first year in the advanced training program. Settle down, Oakland.

All of the 2014 NFL officiating hires came from the 2013 advanced training program.  This program was borne out of the 2012 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the officials’ union.  The goal is for collegiate officials who are candidates to become NFL officials spend time in team training camps and the preseason traveling with NFL crews. In 2013, these officials worked a Week 2 preseason game and half of a Week 3 preseason game. Once the college football season begins in September, the officials return to the collegiate ranks and the NFL continues to scout them for potential future officiating openings.  The NFL could then hire the candidate when a job opens up, invite the candidate to return the next season or drop the candidate from further consideration.

Another source told us last year that the NFL pays the advanced training officials’ salaries for the college conferences in exchange for the burden placed on the conference.

Thomas, and the other candidates, will have the 2014 preseason to show their talents to the NFL with the hopes that they will get the call for 2015.

2014 advanced training crew

Conference College Coordinator
HL Maia Chaka Conference USA Gerry Austin
LJ 138 Kevin Codey¹ American Athletic Terry McAulay
LJ Walt Coleman IV Big 12 Walt Anderson
HL 139 Hugo Cruz¹ Conference USA Gerry Austin
FJ Ryan Dickson Pac-12 Tony Corrente
SJ Lark Jones Conference USA Gerry Austin
SJ Jeremy Lomax American Athletic Terry McAulay
HL Bart Longson Pac-12 Tony Corrente
U Kevin Mar Big 12 Walt Anderson
LJ 145 Clay Martin¹ Conference USA Gerry Austin
HL Harold Mitchell Jr. SWAC, Conference USA Gerry Austin
BJ Jonah Monroe American Athletic Terry McAulay
BJ Larry Neal Jr. Conference USA Gerry Austin
BJ Lyndon Nixon Big 12 Walt Anderson
U 150 Mark Pellis¹ American Athletic Terry McAulay
SJ 151 Clay Reynard² Pac-12 Tony Corrente
FJ Aaron Santi Pac-12 Tony Corrente
BJ Shawn Smith Big Ten Bill Carollo
LJ 153 Sarah Thomas¹ Conference USA, UFL Gerry Austin
FJ 156 Jabir Walker¹ SEC Steve Shaw
U Doug Wilson Pac-12 Tony Corrente

Source: NFL, Football Zebras data. Uniform numbers represent last year’s numbers for returning trainees. ¹member of 2013 program. ²field judge in 2013 program. Image: New Orleans Saints photo.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"