The NFL has three new replay officials in 2017, and a trailblazing woman will be filling one of those spots.
Terri Valenti was the first female to officiate a pro football game when she was hired by the United Football League, and worked all three seasons of its existence as a head linesman. She also became the first female official in the Arena Football League, and worked its championship game in 2015. Alex Marvez of The Sporting News reports Valenti is now the first female replay official in the NFL, joining the staff where line judge Sarah Thomas is the only other woman to hold a permanent officiating position.
Valenti was named the Official of the Year by her arena league colleagues in 2015. NFL umpire Carl Paganelli was her supervisor in the AFL and saw her talent. “She has such a well-rounded skill set,” Paganelli said at her 2015 award presentation. “On the field, she’s attentive, passionate, and gives 110%. The countless hours Terri spent to help innovate training tools for our officials have been vital to improving how we evaluate our crews on film. Yet as good as she is on the field, she’s an even better person.”
As a Palo Alto, Calif., resident, Valenti was the replay assistant assigned to 49ers games last season, and the replay communicator from 2012-2015.
Essentially there is a two-person crew in the replay booth, a replay official and a replay assistant, with a communicator and a technician also assigned. Through the 2015 season, the replay official/assistant tandem traveled with the crew. In 2016, the NFL dismissed most of the replay assistant staff, and made the assistant position regionally based, while the replay official was assigned to the crew. Valenti was promoted to replay assistant during that transition, but it was not publicly known until now, since replay assistants were no longer listed on any NFL press materials as of last season.
In addition to Valenti, Football Zebras has learned that there will be a total of three new replay officials in the 2017 season.
Jimmy Oldham was a replay assistant and apparently continued last season as the Denver-based replay assistant. (The league did not release the assistant and communicator personnel with their officiating rosters; only the replay officials were listed.) Oldham was caught in a minor controversy around Super Bowl 50, when The Lead Sports found the social-media wake of Oldham’s wife attending the game as a staunch Broncos fan, while he worked in the replay booth — the final game under the old tandem system. While it had the appearance of a conflict, it ultimately was not an issue.
John McGrath also will become a replay official, after retiring from the field at the end of last season. A source familiar with the contents of the officials’ collective bargaining agreement with the NFL says that there is a provision that retiring officials would get first consideration for a replay vacancy.
The replay officials that will be leaving the booth this year are Al Hynes, Tommy Moore, and Bob McGrath. The McGraths are brothers. No information was available as to whether the departures were retirements or not.
Update: A previous version of this post indicated that the replay assistant and communicator roles were merged last season, which was not the case. We have clarified the positions that Valenti and Oldham held last season.
Update 6/29/17: The NFL listed Valenti’s prior replay experience in a press release which had not previously been disclosed. The information and the headline have been updated to reflect that.
[Photo: AFL. Valenti pictured in 2015 with AFL commissioner Scott Butera]