Miles College and Lane College, a pair of HBCU schools from the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will play a rare Thursday night game tonight. What will take place on the field is even more rare. So rare, in fact, it's never happened before in the history of college football.
Among tonight's officials will be four women, which is believed to be the most of any crew in college football history. "This is a special opportunity for not only the group of ladies selected to officiate the game, but all officials in the SIAC. Playing on a Thursday night is also a great opportunity for our [SIAC] officials to partner with officials from an FCS conference." said SIAC coordinator of officials Harold Mitchell. "To that point, it's also very important for everyone to understand that selected crew are all outstanding officials, and not just females."
The four officials are: head linesman Yvonda Lewis, line judge Tangela Mitchell, field judge Sabrina Brunson and back judge Krystle Apellaniz. Brunson became the SIAC's first female official in 1995, Lewis has worked college games since 2009, and Mitchell and Apellaniz are in their first year of officiating SIAC games.
The NFL will have a presence as well, with former NFL umpire Terry Killens working the game and league director of football officials David Coleman and director of recruiting Ron Baynes in attendance.
Breaking gridiron barriers for women that so desire will find a much easier route through officiating than, say, coaching. There's no "hand in the dirt" (as one former SEC coach made in reference to another woman's recent involvement in college football) factor to break through. As long as you can police extracurriculars between snaps, knowledge and quick recognition of the rules knows no gender.
But still, better to make this voyage into uncharted waters in a Division II game instead of an SEC game.