Pro Football’s First Woman Referee is AFL’s “Official of the Year”

STOCKTON, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The first female ever to officiate in professional football has added
another distinction to a trailblazing 30-year career on the playing

Terri Valenti, the sole woman among 49 referees in the Arena Football
League (AFL), was named “Official of the Year” by her colleagues
Thursday night at the League’s annual end-of-season dinner. The ceremony
was part of the festivities preceding the 2015 Arena Bowl, where the San
Jose Sabercats face the Jacksonville Sharks for the AFL Championship.

Valenti is officiating at the game which will be telecast live this
Saturday at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.

“I have a deep love for the AFL and its game, so words can’t describe
how totally honored I am by this recognition,” said Valenti. “It is
particularly gratifying because it comes from the other officials in the
League, colleagues that I respect very much for their dedication and

A married mom of five boys, the Palo Alto, CA resident boasts a diverse
work history as a Navy engineer, economics professor and Instant Reply
Communicator for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Her vocation as a
football referee started in 1999 when her sons began to play, and
includes stints at nearly every amateur level: Pop Warner, high school,
community college, and NCAA Divisions I, II and III.

She also has officiated at the professional level with the United
Football League (UFL) and overseas in Italy. Valenti broke the glass
ceiling when she was hired by the UFL in 2009 to become the first-ever
woman to officiate the pro sport. It wasn’t until this year, when the
NFL named Sarah Thomas to their full-time officiating crew, that she had
a counterpart.

The AFL’s Supervisor of Officials, Carl Paganelli, said her on-the-field
performance alone merited her selection. But her achievements above and
beyond the job description really draw the admiration and respect of
everyone around her.

“She has such a well-rounded skill set,” Paganelli said. “On the field,
she’s attentive, passionate, and gives 110%. The countless hours Terri
spent to help innovate training tools for our officials have been vital
to improving how we evaluate our crews on film. Yet as good as she is on
the field, she’s an even better person.”

A Stanford Master’s graduate in engineering, Valenti’s career combines
all her many fields of expertise and interests in teaching. She led U.S.
Navy project teams in computer simulation design before moving on to
teaching engineering, economics and management at Kent State and Menlo
College in Atherton, CA.

About the Arena Football League

Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased its
fast-paced, exciting game to millions of fans in markets across the
country. The ESPN family of networks and CBS Sports Network are the
broadcast homes of weekly games throughout the March-August season. The
AFL’s new Commissioner is Scott C. Butera, who joined the League at the
beginning of 2015.


Anthony Herron, 312-465-2212