He said he hadn’t seen the replay. But he can’t claim ignorance from the controversy anymore.
Bill Vinovich, the head official from the Rams-Saints NFC Championship that ended with pitchforks over a missed pass-interference call, could not hide himself in the college basketball stripes he donned for BYU’s 71-66 win over Saint Mary’s on Thursday in Provo, Utah.
The crowd at the Marriott Center was ready for Vinovich, who, in the aftermath of Nickell Robey-Coleman slamming into Tommylee Lewis long before the pass arrived, claimed he had not yet seen the replay of the potential game-decider (thus making himself just about the only person not to see it).
A few members of the crowd got Vinovich’s attention early in the game during a timeout and asked, “Was it pass interference?” Vinovich, who has officiated NFL games from 2001-06 and 2012 through today, said, “I don’t wanna talk about that stuff,” and walked away.
Bill Vinovich when asked if it was a pass interference - “I don’t wanna talk about that stuff” pic.twitter.com/1rz4IpiKMn— matt (@MattMoon00) January 25, 2019
He didn’t wanna see that stuff, either. Other fans at the game brought a sign reading, “Bill, Don’t Screw These Saints!”
Bill Vinovich is one of the refs in the St. Mary's at BYU basketball game on ESPN2. Surprise No. 1: His crew overturned a call. Surprise No. 2: He's not working the UCLA game at Pauley Pavilion. pic.twitter.com/Hvd7N3a2xv— John Bialas (@johnbialas) January 25, 2019
The sign apparently didn’t last long, with a BYU radio host reporting Vinovich asked the sign to be removed.
REFS ALL HAD TIES TO CALIFORNIA
Meanwhile it was reported on ESPN that there is concern around the league that four officials with Southern California ties worked the game.
The piece cautions that the NFL does not actually believe the game was fixed and that these Angelenos skilfully directed a close game into overtime and ensured a Rams victory.
However, there are some around the league concerned with the peripherals of the refs’ backgrounds, especially because those most responsible for blowing the pass interference call near the end of regulation are from or live in California.
Vinovich is from Newport Beach. According to ESPN, down judge Patrick Turner — who was supposed to follow Lewis on the play — is from Lakewood.
The report states side judge Gary Cavaletto, whose eyes were on Lewis as Drew Brees passed to him, lives in Santa Barbara. And back judge Todd Prukop, essentially the safety on the play, lives in Mission Viejo.
“The NFL put (itself) in a bad situation,” one officiating source told ESPN.
“This is stuff that has to be taken care of prior to game. It’s just guys not thinking of what’s going on, nobody doing their checks and balances. The league is usually pretty much on top of it. This is one that slipped through the cracks.”
The Saints declined comment to ESPN, but their fans have not denied any comment to anyone ever. There is a lawsuit from a New Orleans lawyer charging commissioner Roger Goodell to overturn the result, which brought the Rams into the Super Bowl and left the Saints crushed.
“Officiating assignments are based on performance and not geographic location,” a league spokesman told ESPN.
This story originally appeared in The New York Post and is republished with permission.