The NFL announced on Wednesday that Alberto Riveron, the first Hispanic referee in league history, has been named senior vice president of officiating.
Riveron, who also goes by “Al,” was a game official for nine years and a member of the league’s officiating department since 2013. He replaces Dean Blandino, who resigned in April after spending four years in the post.
After escaping Cuba as a 5-year-old alongside his mother, Riveron developed a passion for football and started refereeing a second job in 1977. He began officiating college games in 1990, spending 15 seasons in the college ranks, before the NFL hired Riveron as a side judge in 2004. Riveron now finds himself in a highly public — and highly scrutinized — role after Blandino stepped down.
The job will not be an easy one, overseeing all aspects of the league’s officiating department and trying to streamline the officiating process, which has become a frequent target for fans, media, coaches and players following controversial calls. Joining Riveron will be Russell Yurk, the league’s new vice president of instant replay and administration, and Wayne Mackie, the new vice president of officiating evaluation and development.
“Al has done a terrific job as a key member of our officiating staff for the past four seasons,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Prior to that, Al was an outstanding on-field official who earned the respect of his fellow officials, as well as coaches and players alike. To have Al leading our officiating department, and then to add talented, knowledgeable instant replay and officiating experts like Russell and Wayne, is a tremendous positive for us as we look forward to the 2017 season.”
Blandino was expected to be the final say on all centralized replay calls, which was agreed upon at the NFL’s owners meetings in March, but that responsibility now comes down to Riveron. Although Blandino found himself swimming in controversial calls, he always seemed to stand up and explain how officials made mistakes in games in a regular spot on NFL Network, so it will be interesting to see if Riveron also takes on this chore.
It’s a tricky spot to be in for any man to call out his peers in the stripes, but it’s one that the public demands after controversial calls that come with a voluminous NFL rule book and interpretive judgment calls.
And now with the centralization of the replay process, Riveron takes on a new but very important challenge for the league, helping shape the developing process and help make what likely will be important and controversial game decisions.
Another big issue the NFL is facing is the matter of protecting quarterbacks and whether there is preferential treatment for some and poor judgment for late hits against others — namely with Cam Newton.
Hat tip to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer for keenly pointing out how Riveron’s crew back in 2011 handled a late hit against Newton early in the QB’s career and how this perhaps could lead to a change of perspective on this thorny matter.
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