Amanda Sauer is something of a rarity as a female referee in football matches, but when exactly did she become a Big 10 official? What inspired her to take to the field?

Amanda Sauer is the only female referee in the Big 10 Conference.

Made up of college teams from multiple sports from states including Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, it features some of the brighest young sport stars in the college system.

Not only for players, but it can also be a training ground for officials and referees.

Sauer, a centre judge, is one such example.

But when did she begin her officiating career in college football, and just how many female referees have gone onto make it into the NFL?

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Amanda Sauer referee

Sauer’s first taste of officiating came in 2011 – and she wasn’t even a referee at the time!

Watching a high school game, she noticed an obvious block which was missed by the on-field officials.

American Underdog | Official Trailer

American Underdog | Official Trailer

Her comments about the missed block were overheard by a youth official, who invited her along to officials’ meetings.

Just six years later, in 2017, Sauer had risen through the high school ranks and was awarded her first college game as referee.

It was played in front of a sell-out 82,000 crowd at Ohio State.

Heartbreak, and joy, for Sauer

A Pennsylvania-native, Sauer is also the first openly bisexual referee in football.

She was widowed when her husband Peter died suddenly at the age of just 35 in a basketball match in 2012.

After the death of her husband, Sauer threw herself into her officiating duties, and set her sights at the top.

She would remarry, to Michelle Cook, a player in her own right, and teacher to one of Sauer’s three daughters.

How many female refs have there been in the NFL?

To date, just three women have officiated a game in the NFL.

Sarah Thomas – a close friend of Sauer – and Maia Chaka are both currently active.

Chaka made history by becoming the first woman of colour to officiate an NFL game in October 2021.

The only other female referee in the NFL was Shannon Eastin, who called her first game in 2012.

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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