When the Super Bowl LIV kicks off in Miami Gardens tomorrow, all the attention will be on the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. But if history is any indication, fans will certainly have something to say about the job the officials are doing, particularly the referee. On that note, the NFL has assigned 14-year veteran Bill Vinovich to lead the crew in the second Super Bowl of his career.
In doing so, they've also allowed Vinovich to headline one of the most historic officiating crews in Super Bowl history. As noted by The Washington Post and confirmed by the NFL, this February's crew will feature a record number of minorities, with five African Americans set to serve on the seven-man team.
Most recently in action as the ref for the Tennessee Titans' divisional round upset of the Baltimore Ravens, the 58-year-old Vinovich last reffed a league title game at the close of the 2014 season, when he oversaw the New England Patriots' last-minute win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. This year's big game, set for Sunday, Feb. 2 in Miami, will mark his 14th career postseason assignment, per Football Zebras.
Field judge Michael Banks, line judge Carl Johnson, umpire Barry Anderson, back judge Greg Steed and side judge Boris Cheek are the milestone-setting minorities on Vinovich's crew. Banks, Johnson and Steed will all be officiating their second career Super Bowl, while Cheek and down judge Kent Payne will be reffing their third Big Game.
The NFL decided to forego traditional assignment procedures by giving Vinovich three different postseason games, according to Football Zebras. In addition to his divisional playoff game, Vinovich was the alternate referee for the wild-card matchup between the Titans and Patriots. Usually officials are limited to two postseason assignments, including alternates.
Vinovich's playoff resume includes 2018's infamous NFC Championship between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, when a pass-interference non-call sparked controversy and ultimately led to this year's trial of pass-interference challenges. But his crew for Super Bowl LIV will collectively enter the game with more Super Bowl experience than any Super Bowl crew since Super Bowl XXXIV (2000), per Football Zebras.
Of the two teams left to contend for a championship, the Kansas City Chiefs have seen Vinovich the most, playing 16 games under his watch. They've also fared far better than the San Francisco 49ers, who've had Vinovich in 12 of their games and won only half of them. Here's the breakdown of how both sides have performed with Vinovich on the crew:
- Chiefs: 10-6
- 49ers: 6-6