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Vinovich and Blakeman are the referees for the Conference Championships

Football Zebras has confirmed the assignment of referees Bill Vinovich and Clete Blakeman to the Conference Championship games on Sunday. Vinovich will have the NFC game between the Rams and Saints; Blakeman will be heading the crew for the AFC title match between the Patriots and Chiefs. Vinovich and Blakeman both officiated on the field in the Wild Card round.

Officials are listed with their uniform number, years of NFL experience (including this season), the crew each official worked with in the regular season (by the referee’s name), college, and outside occupation.

All times are Eastern.

Three alternates are assigned to each game: generally, one is designated for the offensive backfield (a referee or umpire), one is on the line of scrimmage (down judge or line judge), and one is a deep position (side judge, field judge, or back judge). When alternates are listed, their position during the regular season is also given. The prior playoff experience that is listed for the crew chief includes his service as an NFL official, including as referee and any other crew position (excluding alternate assignments).

NFC Championship Game, Rams at Saints, 3 p.m. ET Fox

Bill Vinovich was the referee in Super Bowl XLIX and will now head his third Conference Championship in four seasons.

Vinovich was hired by the NFL in 2001, and was on medical leave for 5 seasons, making this his 13th season on the field. While on leave, Vinovich worked as a regional supervisor and grader in the league office. He is now completing his 10th season, nonconsecutive, as referee.

This is his 12th postseason assignment and 4th Conference Championship. He has also worked 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 4 Divisional Playoffs, and the Super Bowl.

Vinovich officiated the game between these two teams earlier this season in Week 9, which also took place in New Orleans.

Vinovich lives in Lake Forest, Calif., and is a Division I college basketball referee and a certified public accountant.


         Yrs 2018 crew College Occupation
R 52 Bill Vinovich 13    San Diego certified public accountant
U 102 Bruce Stritesky 13 Vinovich Embry Riddle airline pilot
DJ 13 Patrick Turner 5 Corrente Cal State-Long Beach plant manager
LJ 59 Rusty Baynes 9 Boger Auburn-Montgomery general manager, safety services*
FJ 97 Tom Hill 20 Hochuli Carson Newman teacher*
SJ 60 Gary Cavaletto 16 Vinovich Hancock general manager, agricultural operations
BJ 30 Todd Prukop 10 Corrente Cal State-Fullerton medical sales representative

*indicates full-time official

  • Replay official:  Mike Wimmer
  • Replay assistant:  Bill Ellis
  • Alternates:  Jerome Boger (R), Mark Perlman (LJ), Steve Freeman (BJ)

AFC Championship Game, Patriots at Chiefs, 6:40 p.m. ET CBS

After missing the playoffs entirely following the 2016 season, Clete Blakeman will now work his second consecutive Conference Championship.

Blakeman was hired by the league in 2008, worked two seasons as a field judge, and is now in his 9th season as referee.

This is his 9th postseason assignment, including 4 Wild Card Playoffs, 2 Divisional Playoffs, 2 Conference Championships, and Super Bowl 50.

Blakeman is a personal-injury attorney in Omaha, Neb., where he lives with his wife and two children.

      Yrs 2018 crew College Occupation
R 34 Clete Blakeman 11   Nebraska attorney
U 92 Bryan Neale 5 Smith Indiana sales consultant
DJ 8 Dana McKenzie 11 Blakeman Toledo claims adjuster
LJ 79 Kent Payne 15 Martin Nebraska Wesleyan teacher
FJ 43 Terry Brown 13 Anderson Tennessee probation supervisor
SJ 88 Brad Freeman 5 Martin Mississippi State sports park director*
BJ 78 Greg Meyer 17 Cheffers Texas Christian banker*

*indicates full-time official

  • Replay official: Carl Madsen
  • Replay assistant: Tyler Cerimeli
  • Alternates: Tony Corrente (R), Derick Bowers (LJ), Adrian Hill (SJ)
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Cameron Filipe
Cam Filipe is a graduate student at Boston University and has been involved in football officiating for ten years. Cam is in his second season as a high school football official. This is his seventh season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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17 thoughts on “Vinovich and Blakeman are the referees for the Conference Championships

  1. If anyone knows Clete please give him my best and I hope that Clete Clete’s Officiating Crew and the alternates have a good game and make sure that Clete gets the calls right weather it’s a penalty call on the field or a replay call for a touchdown or a Challenge

  2. OK, let’s assume Ron Torbert is the referee for Super Bowl LIII. That makes Blakeman and Vinovich 2-3, in theory. Hussey, Parry and Cheffers are 4-5-6 with divisionals. Anderson and Corrente are 7-8 with wild cards, and Wrolstad (with two alternate assignments) is 9th, in theory. Boger, Coleman, Morelli each got one alternate assignment … leaving Brad Allen nowhere. Any thoughts as to why? (The others were ineligible as first-year referees.)

  3. @Ken McManus – Ask the Vikings about the picked up flag on Bobby Wagner’s illegal blocked FG. Shouldn’t the white hat fix that? He actually brought down the good members of his crew – Mello and Fowler.

  4. @Kokoken53 Allen didn’t get the Pro Bowl either. Coleman and Morelli are splitting that assignment because both are retiring.

  5. @Kokoken53 How do you know Torbert is the SB referee? Could be Parry. And Cheffers is eligible even though he worked it two years ago.

  6. Over the last 2 seasons, the Rams have lost every time Vinovich is the Ref. He has his favorites, and he has the teams he dislikes. He will not call anything in favor of the Rams, but will call everything against them.

  7. David, I don’t know Ron Torbert is the referee for the Super Bowl. I was basing my observation on what was written here previously — that Torbert was their best guess. By all means, it could be John Parry or Carl Cheffers. And I certainly don’t buy Steven’s observation above. I’ve been around NFL officials long enough to know that accusations of that kind are totally lame.

  8. I will just leave this here…


    and this


  9. Still trying to figure out how John Parry called Prescott in the grasp and down when or the Cowboy linesman was had him wrapped up and not a Ram’s player. Strange call, yet he gets the Superbowl.

  10. Inconsistent and poor officiating in both championship games. If this is the best officials for in these positions, then Al Rivon needs help evaluating all officials. The miss a pass interference and helmet to helmet contact 3 times in the Rams-Saints game is unacceptable and the missed pick play where Kansas City scored is also unacceptable. Maybe it it time to release some officials in the NFL.

  11. Vinovich, Cavaletto, and Turner all need to be fired! What a disgraceful performance. Referees need to be held accountable for their actions or in this case inaction.

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