February 16, 2019
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Rams-Saints referee goes back to work to find that fans haven’t moved on

Michael Dwyer | AP
Michael Dwyer | AP
Referee Bill Vinovich, left, reviews a video replay on a handheld screen on the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Sept. 7, 2017.

Bill Vinovich may have been over 1,700 miles removed from the scene of the pass interference non-call that marred the Los Angeles Rams-New Orleans Saints playoff game, but fans aren’t ready to move on.

Game officials officiate, which means Vinovich was on to his next gig less than a week after the controversy and the good people of Provo, Utah, weren’t going to let him off the hook for his NFC championship game call. In that game, the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman should have been called for pass interference (or a helmet-to-helmet hit, for which the NFL fined him). Had the flag been thrown at the Rams’ 13 with the score tied and the clock showing less than two minutes, the Saints likely would have advanced to the Super Bowl. Instead, the Rams will play the Patriots on Sunday.

[Saints owner says team was ‘unfairly deprived’ of chance at Super Bowl]

As Vinovich prepared to call the basketball game between St. Mary’s and BYU on Thursday, a student in the front row at the Marriott Center dared address the elephant in the room, asking repeatedly, “Was it pass interference?”

The answer: “I don’t want to talk about that stuff.”

Another student brought a sign that Vinovich requested to be removed, according to BYU radio host Jarom Jordan, after the first media timeout of BYU’s 71-66 victory.

Another fan had a sign begging “don’t screw these Saints,” a sign that a BYU broadcaster said Vinovich asked to be removed during a media timeout. Fans chanted “Bill! Bill! Bill!” when a turnover was reversed in favor of the Cougars.

[NFL will consider making pass interference calls reviewable after Rams-Saints gaffe]

As for the call in the championship game, Saints Coach Sean Payton said, “We’ll probably never get over it,” adding that the NFL’s admission that the call was blown was small consolation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to comment publicly, although ESPN reported that he has spoken to Payton and Saints owner Gayle Benson.

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Vinovich said he hadn’t seen the call of a replay. “It was a judgment call by the covering official,” he said at the time.


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