As we approach Super Bowl LVIII, let’s break down the officiating crew by the numbers.
I. Experience counts
In Super Bowl XXXIV, Bob McElwee’s crew had a combined 21 Super Bowl assignments. It is highly doubtful that there will be a more experienced crew call the game, but this year’s crew is not far off of that mark. Counting this game, Bill Vinovich’s crew will have a combined 15 Super Bowl assignments — the same amount Super Bowl experience as last year’s crew. This is only the fourth time in the last 25 seasons where the crew had a combined 15 or more Super Bowl assignments.
On the flip side, this is the first time since Super Bowl LI that a majority of the crew will be working their first Super Bowl.
II. Beginnings and endings
Both line judge Mark Perlman and field judge Tom Hill are calling their final game in the Super Bowl. They are the 13th and 14th officials to leave the field on the biggest stage. It is only the second time there are two retiring officials in the same Super Bowl (XLVIII: field judge Scott Steenson and side judge Dave Wyant).
This is also the third time that officials sunset their careers in consecutive Super Bowls, coincidentally all involved the same position in both years: referees Dick Jorgensen (XXIV) and Jerry Seeman (XXV), referees Gene Steratore (LII) and John Parry (LIII), and line judge Jeff Bergman (LVII) pairs with Perlman. The circumstances of departure varied: Bergman and Perlman are true end-of-the-line retirements, Steratore and Parry left in the offseason for television jobs, Seeman moved to the league office to run the officiating department, and sadly, Jorgensen became gravely ill in the offseason and passed away in October 1990.
On the other side of the timeline, umpire Terry Killens and down judge Patrick Holt are in their 5th season, the earliest an official can attain a Super Bowl. This is the fifth time that two officials worked the same Super Bowl in Season 5, the most recent was Super Bowl XXXIX (umpire Carl Paganelli and back judge Tony Steratore).
Combining these beginnings and endings, this is the fourth time that there was a first-year eligible and a retiring official in the same game. This is the first time that there were two of each category in the same game.
Perlman is also the third official to work the Super Bowl in both their fifth season — Super Bowl XL, coincidentally with Hill — and the final game of their career. The others were back judge Don Hakes and field judge Scott Steenson.
III. It’s a family affair
The Freeman family is now the 10th to put more than one family member into a Super Bowl. Brad Freeman officiates his first one this year, while his father, former back judge Steve Freeman also worked Super Bowl XLVIII.
Allen Baynes adds another Super Bowl to the family tree, combining with two each from his father Ron and his brother Rusty. The 5 games overall has them tied for the 4th place family. The Paganelli brothers hold the record with 9.
Brad Freeman and Allen Baynes now cause the total father-son combinations jump to 9, for which Baynes’ father counts twice for each of his sons, and Jerry Bergman Sr. counts twice for his sons Jeff and Jerry Jr.
The Bayneses, Bergmans, and Paganellis are the three families to have three family members work a Super Bowl.
IV. Working together
Bill Vinovich is the 10th white hat to have a crew member work with him in two Super Bowls, as both Perlman and Hill worked with him in Super Bowl XLIX. This is the second time where more than one official returned to a white hat’s crew. Referee Jim Tunney had three members of his Super Bowl VI crew return for Super Bowl XII, and Carl Cheffers accomplished this last year with two members of his crew returned from Super Bowl LV.
There have been 6 white hats that worked multiple Super Bowls without a repeater, a list Vinovich was on before this game.
V. Position streaks
In the last 10 seasons, Bill Vinovich and Carl Cheffers have combined for 6 Super Bowls. It is the only stretch of any 10 consecutive Super Bowls to have two referees work a majority of those games.
This is the 8th consecutive year where the line judge is not a first-time Super Bowl official, which is now the new record longest streak of any position. Incidentally, there were 7 consecutive white hats from Super Bowls XXV to XXXI (1990 through 1997 seasons) that had worked a prior Super Bowl, but two of them (Dick Hantak in XXVII and Gerry Austin in XXXI) did not work at the referee position in their previous assignment.
The only other active position streak is referee at 2. Back judges just had a streak of 6 repeaters broken with the assignment of Freeman.
VI. Cross-positional returns
There have been several referees who worked another position in an earlier Super Bowl. However only two have worked two different field positions and was not a referee. Hill has two Super Bowls as field judge and two as side judge. Ron Phares had two as head linesman and one at line judge. (This does not include positions that changed names, as was the case in 1998 when the field judge and back judge names were switched, or when the umpire moved to the offensive backfield in 2010.)
VII. Inside the jersey numbers
This it the ninth time the number 9 has been worn in a Super Bowl, the most of any number.
Here are the number of times the Super Bowl LVIII crew uniform numbers were worn in prior Super Bowls.
|Previously worn by other officials
|FJ′ Bob Baur (AFL, II*), BJ′ Ben Tompkins (XVIII)
|FJ′ Don Orr (XVII, XXIV, XXVIII), R Terry McAulay (XXXIX, XLIII, XLVIII)
|BJ′/FJ Al Jury (XX, XXII, XXIV, XXVIII, XXXIV), HL Wayne Mackie (50)
|SJ Dean Look (XV*), R Jerry Markbreit (XVII, XXI, XXVI, XXIX)
|SJ Nate Jones (XXVIII)
|R Norm Schachter (V, X), LJ Ron Baynes (XXIX, XXXIII)
|BJ′/FJ Scott Steenson (XXXI, XLVIII)
Back judge and field judge position names were swapped prior to 1998, and a prime symbol (′) indicates the former designation. *Special numbering system was in place.
For Super Bowls I and II, the mixed AFL and NFL officials had a special uniform and special numbers. The referee wore 10, the umpire 20, head linesman 30, line judge 40, field judge 50 and back judge 60. For Super Bowl II, the crew was numbered 12, 22, 32, etc. From 1979-1981 the NFL tried a different numbering system which is a whole other article of information.
One official on the Super Bowl crew (Patrick Holt) has a triple digit uniform number this year. The last Super Bowl that didn’t have at least one on-field official with a triple-digit jersey number was Super Bowl XLIV. The crew with most triple-digit jerseys was Super Bowl XLVI which had five officials sporting a number over 100.
The first officials to call a Super Bowl with triple-digit jerseys were head linesman Dale Hamer (104), and back (now field) judge Dick Hantak (105), both in Super Bowl XVII.
Hantak was the first official at there referee position with a three digit jersey to call at Super Bowl (XXVII). Joining Hantak as the only referees with triple-digit jerseys to call a Super Bowl are Bill Leavy, John Parry and Gene Steratore.
Discounting the special numbers in Super Bowls I and II, and the 1979-81 numbering system, the numbers worn the most times in the Super Bowl are:
- 9 — nine times
- 34 — eight times
- 25, 32, 51, 77 and 106 — seven times
- 59 — six times
And, the following numbers have never been worn by an official in a Super Bowl:
- 69 (never been issued to an official)
Once again, yes, we are that much of number nerds.
Have a great time zebra-watching the final game of the year!
Image: Designed by Ben Austro; Patrick McDermott/Getty Images / © K.C. Alfred/ZUMA Press Wire