Jerome Boger is the man, but is he the best man? (Getty Images)
The NFL won't announce the names of the "all-star" crew set to officiate Super Bowl XLVII until the conference championship games have been decided, but reports from several sources indicate that Jerome Boger, a league referee since 2006, will get this year's assignment. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this on Jan. 13, and FootballZebras.com, a respected site that covers pro-level officiating, had the report around the same time.
And according to FootballZebras.com, Boger's qualifications to call the biggest sporting event in America might be questionable at best. Or, if not Boger's qualifications, certainly the process by which referees are allowed to contend for the Super Bowl. Per the site, who talked with Michael Signora, the league’s vice president of football communications, “the criteria for referees to be eligible for the Super Bowl is three years experience as a referee [and five years total] and playoff experience as a referee. That criteria has not changed since at least 2007.”
In a follow-up e-mail to the site, Signora stated that “In order for an official at any position to be eligible for the Super Bowl, he must have at least five years of NFL experience and either a conference championship game assignment or a playoff assignment in the Wild Card or Divisional round in three of the past five years.”
[Also: 73 players granted special eligibility for 2013 NFL Draft]
Boger, however, had just two playoff games under his belt before the 2012 season, and FZ.com finally got to the bottom of the disparity when the league told the site that a referee specifically needs five years in the NFL as an official, three years as a referee, and just one playoff game. And according to the NFL, referees are the only officials held to that lower standard, in which only one playoff assignment is needed to qualify for the Super Bowl. Boger called the divisional game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers (which would be his third playoff game), but 2012 games aren't supposed to be part of that process, as it's common practice for the Super Bowl-assigned referee to call a divisional game.
Officials are graded through the season in order to determine playoff assignments, or at least, that's what the league tells us. But FootballZebras.com spoke with two officials -- one current and one former -- and each said independently that Boger had eight total downgrades on his 2012 evaluation. According to both men, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, eight downgrades in a season is enough to disqualify any official from postseason eligibility, never mind a Super Bowl assignment.
The league's evaluation process recently came into question when it was learned that Ed Hochuli, who the NFL likes to tout as perhaps its best official, would not work any postseason games at all -- he would work the Pro Bowl instead. We cannot confirm the alleged downgrades on Boger's evaluation, and we are not specifically casting aspersions on his ability or not to call a Super Bowl fairly and correctly. The process, however, has changed over the last few years, and this is where the NFL should provide clarification as quickly as possible.
[Also: Florio: Where will Alex Smith land next season?]
Read More »from Referee assignment for Super Bowl XLVII comes into question