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Clete Blakeman is referee for Super Bowl 50


Football Zebras exclusive

Clete Blakeman will be the referee heading the Super Bowl 50 officiating staff on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif., confirmed by multiple sources. The assignments were officially given to the crew today.

Blakeman worked the overtime Divisional Playoff game between the Packers and Cardinals last Saturday. Each of Blakeman’s crew members worked a Divisional Playoff game, but no more than three appeared on the same crew.

Officials in the Super Bowl must be ranked in the top tier as determined by the vice-president of officiating, Dean Blandino. Accuracy percentages are a large part of the ranking scheme, but Blandino indicated there are other factors he considers. Past practice has allowed officials who have not had a previous Super Bowl assignment, but are near the top rank at their positions, to receive preference.

This is the first Super Bowl assignment for Blakeman. He has worked 3 Wild Card games and 2 Divisional Playoffs and only missed one postseason out of the ones he’s been eligible for. He has been an official in the NFL for 8 seasons, with 6 of them at the referee position. Blakeman’s crew has worked a combined 4 super bowls: Jeff Rice (XXXVI and XXXVIII), Boris Cheek (XLII), and Keith Ferguson (XLIII).

The crew that has been confirmed for the big game is as follows:

         Yrs 2015 crew College Occupation
R 34 Clete Blakeman 8    Nebraska attorney
U 44 Jeff Rice 21 Blakeman Northwestern attorney
HL 106 Wayne Mackie 9 Hussey Colgate director of operations, housing
LJ 59 Rusty Baynes 6 Hochuli Auburn-Montgomery general manager, safety services
FJ 41 Boris Cheek 20 Coleman Morgan State director of operations and management
SJ 3 Scott Edwards 17 Torbert Alabama environmental engineer
BJ 61 Keith Ferguson 16 Hussey San Jose State sales
  • Replay official: Charles Stewart
  • Replay assistant: Jimmy Oldham
  • Alternates:
    • Referee: Tony Corrente
    • Umpire: Butch Hannah
    • Linesman: Jerry Bergman
    • Deep officials: Adrian Hill, Keith Washington
  • Supervisor: Garth DeFelice
  • Observers: Dean Blandino, Al Riveron

Image: Photo by Bill Sitzmann/Omaha Magazine. Football Zebras graphic by Ben Austro. Marcus Griep also contributed to this report.

From Football Zebras editor Ben Austro

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Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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61 thoughts on “Clete Blakeman is referee for Super Bowl 50

  1. Wayne Mackie is an awesome HL and the only NFL official who lives in New York City. Congrats to him.

  2. Very good-looking crew. I am particularly happy to see Mackie, Cheek, and Edwards. I think this is Rice’s 2nd SB.

  3. good crew. It is possible that Vinovich was number 1 two years running but due to rules cant get super bowl. I think the rule was in effect when Jim Tunney got back to back super bowls as well simply indicating Tunney was best of all time that rule was ignored due to his greatness.

  4. Jeff Rice umpire puts on a great tutorial each game on how to use the finger whistle to properly signal and toot at same time. Through the years he appears to have changed from the acme metal to a fox 40.

  5. Congrats to Blakeman. There is a discernible pattern in how the officials from the divisional games are picked for the Super Bowl. In the past four years the HL and SJ worked their divisional games together as well as the Super Bowl. This is also true for the LJ and FJ. In three of the past 4 Super Bowls the R and U worked together as well. The one exception was last year where Vinovich and Schuster worked different games in the divisional round. I don’t see a pattern for the selection of the back judge.

  6. I m not familiar with the officials. I hope they sharpen their vision and put on their thinking caps so we don’t have flag after flag.

  7. Awesome graphic image!!!….NICE JOB to Ben Austro in making that design look absolutely perfect! :). Regarding the ref, Blakeman was only involved in one controversial call that I could find…..a 2013 game between the Partiots and the Panthers regarding a pass interference call at the end of the game that ultimately would not have changed the outcome of the game anyway, but the point is that former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Periera stated that the penalty that Blakeman announced was overturned, should have actually stood. Other than that, Blakeman’s 8 year record in the NFL is clean. So, good luck to him and his crew during Super Bowl 50…….and may the best team win! 🙂

  8. Are u kidding me he had horrible game i cant believe they picked him as the SB referee my goodness he couldnt even get the coin toss right
    I still cant get over walt anderson didnt even grade out to get a playoff game

  9. Not overally impressed, personally I’d like to have seen it go to Ed, Tony or Walt Coleman. Main reason being is (as a patriots fan) last time we played the Panthers, we lost because Blakeman’s crew didn’t call a massive hold on Gronkowski in the end zone that cost us a huge shot at winning the game and then Dan came out mid week and said Clete screwed up and then who could forget the coin tosses of recent times…. too many screwups for me.

    Also what does Gene Steratore have to do to get either a championship game or a Super Bowl as I really like him as a ref

  10. Congrats to all the officials working the biggest game ever!! Huge shout to Wayne Mackie and Long Island guy and a professional at his craft!!! I have learn from him in football camps and he has passion for his job!! Good luck to all and enjoy the ride!!

  11. @dale are you kidding me? vinovich should never have even gotten a playoff assignment, let alone a super bowl. he is definitely in the bottom four in my opinion, along with steratore, boger, and triplette.

  12. @sabrina pereira agrees with the call on the field every single time, no matter what. his opinion isnt worth a dime.

  13. It’s obvious here who has never officiated a game of any kind. The masses couldn’t put on a uniform, let alone use a whistle. The bottom line is these men and woman have forgotten more about the game than most of you will ever know so all of you fanboys relax yourselves. Remember, anyone can be perfect sitting on the couch, eating wings and having a beer. Now stop official bashing, shut up and watch the damn game!

  14. “All-Star” crews don’t cut it for me. I think it should go to the highest rated crew, not put together “piece-meal” crew. As far as Linesman goes; and I apologize for not remembering her name, the first female official should have made the cut. I saw her work several games this season, and was impressed by both her professional performance and her ability to deal with the hostile environment of the sideline. Never saw one of her calls reversed upon review. Maybe next year!
    (Believe Ed Hoculi was overlooked because of his ‘bru-ha-ha” over Cam Newtonand Cam’s potential of playing in the game.)

  15. @Phil – a few points…

    Most crews have between one and three weak links. This is because the NFL does not hire the most qualified officials. They instead focus on skin, kin and women. That is not to say that many of the skin and kin officials are not good. Some are excellent. The lone woman…

    Sarah was not very good at all, and actually was not qualified to do the job.

    Clete and others are better, albeit less well known, than Ed.

  16. Andy

    Could not agree more w/your comments. Congratulations to Clete, and the entire SB50 crew. Best of luck gentlemen.

  17. Good selections all around. Yes, Sarah Thomas dropped a huge opportunity given (not earned) to her. Not good. Poor Pete Morelli.

  18. Phil and others,
    You watching the same Morelli crew that I was watching ? Ms Thomas was horrible ! Gives team a TO when they don’t have any left ! Please !! She wouldn’t be on a HS crew if she was a guy .

  19. Good luck to all these guys officiating the game. Really happy for Clete and Mackie. These guys deserved it

  20. Congrats to Clete, started his season in the Bay Area at Raiders training camp. Will end the season in the Bay Area at the Super Bowl. Glad to see the R & U teamed up together.

  21. Clete is a good referee as are the rest of the Super Bowl officials. I also agree with Andy.

    Its obvious on here who has an officiating background or experience. And those that give opinions based on whether their favorite team “got screwed”.

    Following the long NFL season – you can’t really explain how Walt Anderson didn’t work one playoff game. Only explanation I can reason is simply he didn’t want the assignment or possibly health issues.

    And no, I’ve never worked with Walt.

  22. Whaaaaat? Corrente is just a backup again? Unbelievable! Clete is a good young referee but no doubt TC should work that SB and not from the sideline.
    The only reason i see is that New England will be there too. Sad. Sad.

  23. Congratulations Clete!
    We are all SO proud of you!
    You certainly climbed to the top of the referee mountain in a short time. You’ll have several more years to enjoy it!
    As far as your son’s name… I’ll just have to settle on being an “alternate”.
    Have some fun out in Santa Clara, and please don’t have a sleepless night, tossing & turning, & worrying about the ‘Coin Toss’.

  24. I agree Clete is a good ref just not Super Bowl quality- yet. I thought Tony was going to get it. He had a way better game last week. I agree Bill V was decent at one time and did not deserve the big game last year. I am surprised anyone on Hochuli’s current crew including Ed got any playoff games given the MANY blatant missed calls in many games this year. Gene isn’t good enough.

  25. It really should’ve been Corrente. Like Dave C said, he and his crew had a much better performance last week than Blakeman, and as good as Blakeman has become, he still hasn’t done a conference championship game yet (yes, there’s the 3/5 rule, but the ref should still have a CC on his resume).

    And regarding Sarah Thomas, she’s a good official who was saddled with a bad crew this year (seriously NFL, put her with a better ref than Morelli next year). Anyone who feels otherwise obviously hasn’t worked in the league or is simply a jealous scab from the fall of 2012 (and anyone who says that the scabs were good is kidding themselves).

  26. It’s time that Freddie Bryant (U) and Jon Lucivansky (SJ) get a shot at SB L? (i.e. 5?)

  27. I think Clete Blakeman is deserving of the assignment. I wasn’t shocked that Boger and Tripplette were shut out. Boger has really taken a fall, from Super Bowl to toilet bowl in 2 years. I never thought he deserved the Super Bowl he was given in the first place, if it is truly based on merit. Tripplette is just Tripplette.

    Now, Walt Anderson being shut out? That’s a big surprise. His games never seem to be whacky ones…ever.

  28. @anon

    You want to blame Morelli for Sarah? Seriously?

    Pete had a weak U, a lazy HL and she flat out stunk. She was smart enough to keep low profile, but not competent. And, there were problems on the back end of the Morelli crew as well. But, Pete, like many others is stuck with the less than great crop that is available.

    Do you believe the league is hiring the best available? Or, do I hear skin, kin and now va-gin.

  29. Anon, you are clueless about Sarah Thomas. Seen her work college and as “clinician” at off-season camp in Houston a few years ago…mediocre. Nothing special as an official. Happen to notice in 2012 the same crew worked the first Sunday night game in Denver AND then four nights later foe the first Thursday night game in Green Bay? MINIMAL issues and no controversies in either game beyond typical football yacking. Yes, there were replacements who should not have been there, but there were MANY you SHOULD STILL BE THERE!

  30. Sorry, but Anon, really? Did her CREW cause her to give unavailable TOs THREE TIMES this season? Not bloody likely.

  31. Look, I get that I’m likely alone in my thought process regarding Sarah Thomas, so instead of trying to fight a losing battle, I’ll simply say this:
    -Could you do a better job than her? No you couldn’t.
    -To those who’ve been on the field (you know who you are) did you do better than her? Clearly not since she’s in the league and you’re not and since you feel entitled to complain.

    With that, we’ll agree to disagree. Don’t expect perfection from officials because nobody’s perfect. Simply expect a good effort and officials who try their best

  32. @anon

    That might be the most inane and pathetic defense of all time. I do not work as an official, but I have friends that work power five that do. They are far more experienced and qualified than many of the people currently working the NFL. Sarah is not even in their league from a talent point of view. Also, while Sarah is clearly the least qualified, there are plenty of subpar officials who got in due to their skin or kin.

    But, guess what, their last name is not Hochuli or Paganelli or Parry or Baynes – so, they fail the kin test. Their race is caucasian, so they fail the skin test. And, they have now fail the va-gin test as the NFL has decided to go full publicity stunt mode and hire a woman.

    For the record, there are white men that have no kin real relations (that I know of) like Triplette that are not very good either.

  33. The problem is that the NFL is not concerned with hiring the best officials, but rather young officials who will have longer careers in the NFL. If you look at the top 1st and 2nd year officials they all have a track record of workinng the top bowl games assigned to BCS conferences. When you hire C-USA officials whose top bowl assignment was the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl or some other bowl game that shouldn’t exist, you are going to get bad officials. If you hired exclusively from the BCS games regardless of age the results would be better in the NFL.

  34. About the coin toss… seriously, they should pass some kind of rule to definitely allow the referees to retoss in case of any kind of a bad toss. (That said, Clete made a good judgement call in the Arizona Green Bay game. He’s just lucky the toss went the same way twice.) Also, for the love of God, change the overtime rules in the playoffs so each team gets at least one chance at a possession in overtime.

  35. Based on grades, Thomas shouldn’t be allowed back next year. Based on NFL publicity, she’ll be back.

  36. Ben and Mark and other moderators: Are we going to try to get a 50th anniversary list of the best officials ever to work the Super Bowl? Would be interesting. Thanks.

  37. The Super Bowl Crew looks solid and based on that they should have a great game. I’m happy for those working their first game and wish them all the luck.

    Lots of Sarah Thomas bashing going on here, which isn’t surprising if you ARE an official and know what it takes to get to the NFL. For some reason the NFL felt the need to be PC and I’m not sure why they feel that way. Chose the best college officials regardless of skin, kin or whatever and they’ll do the job and avoid controversy. You can’t blame Morrelli for her short comings. She has to step up her game and Do Her Job! Let’s see how she does next year on another crew.

  38. Anyone think that they are picking the best officials?


    Do most think the skin or kin accusation rings true?

  39. Alex Kemp (son of the late Stan Kemp) and Brad Freeman (son of current BJ Steve Freeman) both looked like they belong. The problem is the NFL is not looking for the best officials. They want young officials who can give 20+ years in the NFL. The best of the young officials have generally been those who have worked BCS games at the collegiate level. When your Bowl experience is the equivalent of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and not even your conference’s best assignment when you are not in a BCS conference, you have no business being considered by the NFL. Mike Defee was one of the top deep officials in the college ranks and is now one of the top Referees, but he will not get a shot due to age

  40. Dave C—-

    Your defense, if I understand it, is that the real world sucks. Therefore, the NFL officiating ranks suck?

    We can accept that when the teams start to hire players based upon their race. Until that point, your reasoning is irrational.

  41. @Bob Stone, CM

    By my count, 199 officials have called the 50 Super Bowl games.

    It’s easy to count them up, but to whittle it down to 50…that will take awhile!

  42. How about the best at each position: R–Tunney, U–Connell, H–Sabato, L–Beeks, B–Graf, F– Kelleher, S–Look, just to start the discussion.

  43. Jim Tunney – Hall of Famer but give me either:

    Red Cashion or Ben Dreith as the Referee.

    Fred Silva, who also worked a Super Bowl, was very good as well.

  44. Bob, agree with most although I would consider Ron Botchan or Al Conway at U, Jerry Bergman Sr. at HL and Jack Fette as LJ.

  45. To Bob Stone: the best referees in my memory would include Tommy Bell, Jerry Markbreit, Red Cashion, Ben Dreith , Jim Tunney, Johnny Grier, and Mike Carey. These are former referees only and certainly not all inclusive.

  46. looking at Clete Blackman’s number 34 reminds me of his great predecessor who wore 34- Gene Barth-that was are of a great era and a class guy. Clete, you are a lucky guy to follow in such great footsteps!

  47. So now that the superbowl is done what do you all think about the job the officials did?

  48. Congratulations to the Super Bowl crew. A job well done without any major issues. The NFL now has a new “Rock Star”, Clete Blakeman. Here is hoping we see more of #34 and less of #77 on major TV games. !!!

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