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Conti to become first female Big 12 college football official

DALLAS -- The Big 12 will make history during the 2014 college football season.

For the first time in the conference's history -- and among all of the major college football leagues -- a female official will work a game when Southeast Missouri travels to Kansas on Sept. 6.

"And she is not there because she is a female," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday at the conference's annual media days. "She is there because she's paid her dues and because she is a really outstanding football official."

Catherine "Cat" Conti will be part of the expanded Big 12 officiating crew the league will use for their non-conference games and will become the first female official to work a "Power 5" conference game when she takes the field. Conti has already worked several Division I games in smaller conferences, but this will represent a big step up in terms of the stage.

"This is a good opportunity for her and a good opportunity for us. And I don't think you'll really notice much about how the officiating is done on the game," Bowlsby added. "But it's significant that she's doing it. And I don't know that Walt (Anderson) made the selection for gender-equity purposes; I think he made the selection because she is just a darned good official."

A veteran NFL referee, Anderson also serves as the Big 12's director of officiating and made the decision to have Conti work the game. The conference did not announce if she would be assigned to any other crews during the league slate, but the September game figures to be quite the audition.

Conti told last month that her ultimate goal is to become the NFL's first female official. While the game won't mean much nationally given Kansas' place in the Big 12, it certainly will be notable, even if those on the sidelines don't treat Conti any different from the rest of the crew.

"I'll try to watch my language," Jayhawks head coach Charlie Weis said. "But it means nothing to me. It's great that a woman is put in a position to be on equal footing with the men.

"All power to her."

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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