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Sarah Thomas could join NFL in 2014

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press

Female referee making strides to making history

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 8:22 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis wasn't all that thrilled being called for an offside penalty on the final day of minicamp this week.

“I'm not exactly happy with that,” Mathis said with a laugh.

The official that made the call? Sarah Thomas, who is on her way toward becoming the first permanent female official in the NFL. It could happen as early as the 2014 season.

“I'm certain I can't make everybody happy,” Thomas said of that call on Mathis.

Thomas spent three days at the Colts minicamp as part of the NFL's officiating development program, and league officials say she would be the first woman to reach NFL fields through the program. She's expected to join the Colts in training camp next month and could call some preseason games this year.

Once completing the development program, Thomas could get a shot at the regular season if a spot becomes available. That wouldn't happen until a current official retires or leaves the league.

Last year, Shannon Eastin became the first woman to be an official in both a preseason and regular-season NFL game. She was a line judge in the Rams-Lions season opener, among the replacements hired during the officials' lockout. Eastin, who started officiating high school games before moving up to colleges, owns a company called SE Sports Officiating, which trains officials in football and basketball. Last summer, the NFL Referees Association said Eastin shouldn't be allowed to work league games because she has been in the World Series of Poker. If Eastin is hired permanently, the NFL's gambling policy would bar her from participating in such events.

Thomas is an official with Conference USA and has been for the past eight seasons. She still has some steps to take before she can get to the NFL.

There are interviews and background checks to be done, and she will be evaluated during any NFL camps and preseason games she handles — as well as during the upcoming college football season.

Kennedy suspended for 19 games

PITTSBURGH — Major League Baseball came down hard on the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, handing out eight suspensions and a dozen fines as punishment for a bench-clearing brawl.

Yet even with Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy getting 10 games and infielder Eric Hinske five for their roles in Tuesday's fight, it might not be enough to quell the lingering hostility between the NL West rivals.

“No, it's not over yet, not at all,” Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario said. “I don't think anybody thinks it's over.”

Belisario was to serve a one-game suspension on Friday night for “aggressive actions” while Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell and infielder Skip Schumaker appealed the two-game suspensions they received from MLBl Senior Vice President Joe Garagiola Jr.

Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly and Arizona's Kirk Gibson were given one-game bans, while Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire must sit two games. Bench coach Trey Hillman filled in for Mattingly on Friday night when Los Angeles played at Pittsburgh.

Garagiola cited Kennedy for intentionally throwing a pitch at the head of Zack Greinke after a warning had been issued and Hinske for leaving the dugout and “aggressive actions.”

Mattingly was penalized for his conduct and Gibson for Kennedy's actions following a warning.

Kennedy's suspension is the longest handled out by the league for on-field conduct since Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett was handed a 10-game suspension for an incident with White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski on May 20, 2006.

Edwards tops MIS qualifying

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Brad Keselowski was asked to pick one word to describe a lap at Michigan International Speedway.

“Fast,” the defending Sprint Cup champion said. “This is, to me, the fastest track we have — and it might be in speed, but it definitely is in feel.”

MIS is in its second year with a newly paved surface, and drivers are again making 200 mph laps look almost routine. Carl Edwards topped Sprint Cup qualifying Friday with a lap of 202.452 mph.

That run came a year after Marcos Ambrose won the pole at MIS at 203.241 mph — the first time since 1987 the 200 mph mark was broken during qualifying for NASCAR’s top series.

“The new track is super fun to race on,” Edwards said. “The pavement seems like it has aged more in a year than a lot of new track surfaces have, and hopefully we can keep developing a Goodyear tire and keep making it softer and softer to where it becomes the old Michigan here in a year or two. I think that is going to be awesome.”

Edwards topped qualifying for the first time this season. He had the pole in May at Talladega as well, but that was because qualifying was rained out and the field was set by practice speeds. He’s second in the Sprint Cup standings.

Kurt Busch was second in qualifying, followed by Kasey Kahne. Points leader Jimmie Johnson was 17th, one spot behind Keselowski.