Midland’s Vinovich to Super Bowl

NEW YORK — Two people familiar with the assignment tell The Associated Press that Bill Vinovich was chosen to work this year’s Super Bowl because he had the highest rating among referees.

The selection of Vinovich, a native of Midland, Pa., has met with some disfavor from players and fans, noting that he was the referee in last year’s NFC championship game marred by an egregious missed penalty call on the Rams that helped them get to the Super Bowl.

The two people spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the league does not make public its ratings for game officials.

Vinovich, who moved to California at age 8, will be working his second Super Bowl and 14th career playoff game. That includes three conference championships.

The missed pass interference/illegal contact call on the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman against Tommylee Smith would not normally have been made by the referee. The play occurred near the sideline and downfield, nowhere near the referee’s main area of coverage.

However, Vinovich was in charge of the crew, so many observers and players hold him culpable, as well.

Most notably that includes Saints All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, who wrote an emoji-filled reaction on Twitter, saying “O no, he don’t even own any flags. Let me stop.”

A 15-year NFL veteran, Vinovich also worked the 2015 Super Bowl between New England and Seattle. He has consistently graded highly with the league, one of the people said.

Vinovich’s grandfather and father were also sports officials in the area. Bill Vinovich spent the first eight years of his life in Beaver County, Pa. before moving to California.

It’s been a difficult season for NFL officials and the league went with one of its most experienced referees. Down judge Kent Payne and side judge Boris Cheek will be handling their third Super Bowl each.

Also on the crew will be umpire Barry Anderson, line judge Carl Johnson, field judge Michael Banks, back judge Greg Steed and replay official Mike Chase. It will be the first Super Bowl assignments for Anderson and Chase. Johnson has done two, as have Steed and Banks.