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9 officials hired by the NFL with only 4 vacancies


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:

Update: The NFL added Jonah Monroe in the last week of May as the tenth new official.

Yrs* College Conference Officiating Supervisor
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.


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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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14 thoughts on “9 officials hired by the NFL with only 4 vacancies

  1. It’s possible. I edited out the other two father-son combinations: Ed and Shawn Hochuli and Steve and Brad Freeman. The league put the Hochulis and the Freemans together for a preseason game two years ago (when they were in the developmental program), but opted not to place them on the same regular season crew.

  2. Shawn Smith? REALLY? A ref. in the MC for years, and then only 2 years as a deep wing in the Big Ten (I saw him work MANY times, and talk about uncomfortable and limited idea of what to do). SO MANY other deep wing guys deserving more than him. Well, nepotism and demographic needs continue.

  3. Jerome, I can tell, You certainly don’t know much about officiating. Besides being a Hater of Mr. Smith. He deserves to be on that list!

  4. No a hater, just a pragmatist. 27 years of officiating also (including top-level NCAA).

  5. Jerome: As usual, spot on. That clown has no idea what he is talking about. Just another suck up to this officiating group who knows little of what he speaks. I too have been there done that at a very high level… I actually know of what I speak. As do you. They can’t handle the truth.

  6. The “D” is clueless on LIFE, but especially officiating, he doesn’t realize that the mantra is “skin or kin gets you in.” I mean look at Tom Symonette (aka inadvertent whistle a few years ago to which he didn’t admit to doing, is the supervisor of the MEAC college conference! AMAZING how these NFL guys keep getting hired to supervise college conferences and don’t know the majority of the NCAA rules, and certainly now less about OBJECTIVE observations of their officials.

  7. So true…Skin or Kin.
    Check out prices of these ncaa/nfl conference clinics $1000s of dollars rollin in for these guys who say same stuff and are unprepared. Then they hire skin or kin… nfl should publish every official grades for games

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