Majority-woman crew officiates D-2 football game

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Women referees, from left, back judge Krystle Apellariz, field judge Sebrina Brunson, head linesman Yvonda Lewis and line judge Tangela Mitchell pose for a portrait prior to the start of an NCAA college football game between Lane College and Miles College in Fairfield, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

 

by John Zenor
AP Sports Writer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The officials sprinted around the field keeping order, throwing flags and even telling the Miles College band to hush once.

It was a typical college football game Thursday night except that four of the seven people wearing the black-and-white stripes were women.

The Southern Intercollege Athletic Conference billed the Miles-Lane game as the first majority-female officiating crew for an NCAA game.

The event — Miles won 38-26 — was significant enough that the NFL’s director of officiating David Coleman, director of recruiting Ron Baynes and regional scout Bob Shoulders attended the game. They wanted to see head linesman Yvonda Lewis, line judge Tangela Mitchell, field judge Sebrina Brunson and back judge Krystle Apellaniz in action, as well as the men.

“They paid their dues,” said Harold Mitchell, director of officiating for the SIAC and SWAC. “They’ve done what’s necessary to get in this position. They’ve earned it. And I’m hoping it will show the world that females can officiate just as well as men, and I’m hoping that more females will take the step to try to become football officials

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Line judge Tangela Mitchell calls a play dead during an NCAA college football game between Lane College and Miles College in Fairfield, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. The Southern Intercollege Athletic Conference is billing this game as the first majority-female officiating crew in an NCAA game. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Hair tucked neatly into their caps and looking petite among the players, they mostly drew little attention once the game started — a plus for officials.

Apellaniz, a first-year SIAC official, had an especially busy sequence at one point. She had to run toward the sideline in the second half to stop the Miles band from playing when visiting Lane had the ball.

“I’ve never had to do that before,” the Ovieda, Fla., resident said. “He warned them on the mic but they didn’t hear him because they were so loud and beautiful.”

A couple of minutes later, she had to help separate players after a personal foul call against Lane and didn’t hesitate flagging Miles for pass interference on the next play.

The NFL began a Women Officiating Now (W.O.N.) program this year as part of the Football Officiating Academy launched in 2010. The program is designed to help recruit and train female officials.

Coleman said he had never seen more than one woman work a college game but did see two in a high school game.

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