NFL bringing back controversial top referee

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The NFL had its fair share of officiating controversies this season — especially during the critical final month of the season.

And the man who was at the center of at least two of the biggest controversies has been told by the NFL he’ll have a job again next season.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL confirmed Tuesday that Alberto Riveron will return next season as senior vice president of officiating. It will be Riveron’s second season in that position.

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Riveron might not be a household name to the majority of football fans, but two of his rulings in key December games sparked national debate and cast the league in a negative light.

In the final minute of a key Week 15 game between New England and Pittsburgh, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drove his team to the New England 10-yard line, looking for a game-winning touchdown. Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James, who made a diving grab and then, before being touched, reached the ball across the end zone for what many thought was a touchdown.

Officials on the field called James’ catch a touchdown, but after looking at the play in slow motion, Riveron ruled James did not “survive the ground” when he reached the ball over the plane of the goal line, meaning James lost his grip on the ball momentarily when his arm hit the ground.

Pittsburgh’s touchdown was overturned, and two plays later, Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone, giving New England the win that helped secure home-field advantage for the Patriots throughout the playoffs.

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Many fans questioned what constitutes a catch in the NFL, especially since the calls varied on a game-by-game basis.

One week later, another “catch rule” controversy engulfed the league — and again benefited the Patriots — when a catch by Buffalo’s Kelvin Benjamin at New England was ruled a touchdown on the field, only to be overturned by Riveron from the league office.

“When Kelvin Benjamin gains control, his left foot is off the ground. The receiver only has one foot down in bounds with control. Therefore, it is an incomplete pass,” Riveron said in explaining his decision.

Not only were fans furious with the calls, but Mike Periera, the league’s former VP of officiating and current Fox Sports NFL rules analyst, even questioned Riveron’s judgment for the reversal.

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Riveron was named the league’s senior vice president of officiating last spring, replacing Dean Blandino, who also left the league office to work for Fox. Riveron had been an NFL official and referee from 2004 to 2012.

Last March, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league’s head of officiating would have the final say on all replay reviews from the league offices in New York. Previously the referee working the game had final call on replays.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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