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Football Zebras > Assignments > Carl Cheffers is the referee for Super Bowl LV. Sarah Thomas becomes the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl

Carl Cheffers is the referee for Super Bowl LV. Sarah Thomas becomes the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl

Football Zebras has confirmed that Carl Cheffers will be the referee for Super Bowl LV in Tampa.

Cheffers, 60, is in his 21st season and 13th as referee. This is Cheffers’ 15th postseason assignment, including 5 Wild Card Playoffs, 6 Divisional Playoffs, 2 Conference Championships. He previously officiated Super Bowl LI in the 2016 season. Cheffers was the referee for the Ravens-Bills Divisional Playoff last Saturday.

Cheffers is a sales manager from Whittier, Calif., who joined the NFL in 2000 after working five years in the Pac-10 Conference, now the Pac-12.

Also of note, down judge Sarah Thomas, hired in 2015 as the first woman official on the NFL’s full-time roster, will now make history again as the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl.

A referee must have at least 5 years of seniority, worked 3 years at the referee position, and worked a playoff game as a referee in a previous postseason. The other members of the Super Bowl crew have traditionally had a Conference Championship game on their résumé (or received on-field assignments in 3 of the last 5 postseasons) in addition to being at least a 5-year veteran. This year, that criteria appears to have been relaxed.

Entering this postseason, Thomas has worked two other postseason games; she earned the third this year, which ordinarily means her Super Bowl eligibility would begin next year. Sources told Football Zebras in 2016 that she was slated to get a wild card assignment that year, but was sidelined with a broken wrist at the end of the regular season. Field judge James Coleman also has not had the requisite recent experience for a Super Bowl assignment, having a divisional assignment in 2018 and 2014. The later assignment is beyond the 5-year window, although he was injured in the 2015 season. He has picked up at least an alternate assignment and a Pro Bowl in those seasons he has not worked on the field, but that has not been a consideration previously. By extending the eligibility window, it is still 2 playoff assignments in 6 years. All other members of the crew have met the postseason requirement by working a Conference Championship game.

As such, Thomas and Coleman are the two officials on the Super Bowl crew that will be working the Super Bowl for the first time in their careers. The remaining members of the crew will be working their second Super Bowl: Cheffers, umpire Fred Bryan, line judge Rusty Baynes, side judge Eugene Hall, and back judge Dino Paganelli.

Owing to the pandemic, this will be the first Super Bowl since the first one to have a full crew of alternate officials. Additionally, there is an alternate replay official to be safe. This was also done for this year’s Conference Championship games.

Scheduled assignments are subject to change due to the pandemic.

      Yrs 2020 crew College Occupation Prev. Playoff Prev. SB
R 51 Carl Cheffers 21   California-Irvine sales manager 5 WC, 6 DIV, 2 CC LI
U 11 Fred Bryan 12 Blakeman Northern Iowa superintendent, juvenile correctional facility 3 WC, 3 DIV, 1 CC LIII
DJ 53 Sarah Thomas 6 Hochuli Mobile sales representative 3 DIV
LJ 59 Rusty Baynes 11 Boger Auburn-Montgomery general manager, safety services 4 WC, 4 DIV, 3 CC 50
FJ 95 James Coleman 16 Torbert Arkansas electrical engineer 2 WC, 5 DIV
SJ 103 Eugene Hall 7 Rogers North Texas federal agent 3 WC, 3 DIV, 2 CC LIII
BJ 105 Dino Paganelli 15 Smith Aquinas College educator 2 WC, 8 DIV, 2 CC XLVII
  • Replay official: Mike Wimmer
  • Replay assistant: Sean McKee
  • Alternates:
    • Referee: Shawn Smith (#14)
    • Umpire: Ramon George (#128)
    • Down judge: Jerod Phillips (#6)
    • Line judge: Mark Steinkerchner (#84)
    • Field judge: Tom Hill (#97)
    • Side judge: Jabir Walker (#26)
    • Back judge: Brad Freeman (#88)
    • Replay official: Mark Butterworth

Image: Chad Young for Football Zebras / Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images / Manfred Schmidt/

Editor’s note: A correction was made to the originally posted roster which contained two officials erroneously.

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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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25 thoughts on “Carl Cheffers is the referee for Super Bowl LV. Sarah Thomas becomes the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl

  1. I had a feeling it was Cheffers when the Divisional Assignments were released. The Saturday night game is usually the most competitive seed wise, and last year Bill Vinovich went from TEN-BAL on Saturday night to SB LIV. Congrats to Carl, who is an excellent official. Wonder if he might consider retiring after this honor.

  2. Cheffers is a solid ref through and through. Anyone see that play in the game last week where Sarah Thomas stared at the other official to make that TD call, when she was the closer ref to the play?

  3. THe number of playoff games reported in the press release of the league do not match the number of playoff games in the article. Can you explain the difference? Thanks

  4. Sarah getting the call is the least surprising announcement in NFL history. Roger had her penciled in for the first game she was eligible.

  5. Regarding the number of games reported by NFL Operations in comparison to our records, the NFL is including Super Bowl LV and any Pro Bowls officiated in the total count.

  6. @Pimpsey – seriously? Look at the live blog and it was non-verbal communication and teamwork all the way.

  7. Two things are interesting to me.
    1. Tony Corrente did not get a single playoff game
    2. The alternate Shawn Smith didnt do a single playoff game. If something happened to Cheffers he would step in.

    Cheffers is a great referee and a great pick, but I am surprised Corrente did not get a single game

  8. @ anonymous – That list is by no means limited to Jerod Phillips.

    Does anyone really believe she is better than Camp or Payne or McKenzie or Bergman etc…

    But, the league has a much more interesting side story now. And, she is at least competent. Hopefully, she and the crew will have a good game where nobody recalls who called the game.

  9. Payne worked it last year so was ineligible. Bergman had such a down year he did not even get an Alternate assignment this year.

  10. @Logan – Jerry Bergman is the DJ and he did work this year.

    And … it did not matter who was working as a DJ, Goodell was hell bent on a female official at the SB. Hope the crew has a good game.

  11. @Logan

    I doubt there is one knowledgeable person that believes she merits being recognized as the top DJ in the NFL.

  12. Nope. She was a good college official but is in over her head in the NFL. Yet she gets a Super Bowl the first year she is eligible despite having not worked the requisite number of games. Ridiculous.

  13. Sarah had a Great year and was #1 at her position. Unfortunately to all of you Monday morning officials she earned the assignment. Give her the props she deserves and more importantly, cheer for her on Super bowl Sunday while you watch on your couches.

  14. @ winning team
    You seem very sure that Sarah was ranked #1 for the 2020 season. I must assume you are privy to the rankings compiled by the nfl.

    With that in mind, would you be kind enough to share the year end rankings for the DJ and other 6 positions. I know I would be interested in seeing which officials were ranked the highest.

    Thanks in advance for sharing the information you have.

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