NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In a season that began with criticism of replacement refs, the NFL found itself dealing with questions Wednesday about the qualifications of its lead official for the Super Bowl.
Jerome Boger, a member of NFL officiating crews for nine years, will be the referee Sunday in his first NFL title game amid accusations by a former official-turned-broadcaster that the league doctored his rating.
Boger has worked four divisional playoff games, including the San Francisco 49ers' victory over Green Bay this year. He entered the league as a line judge in 2004, and was promoted to referee in 2006. He is only the second black referee to work the title game, following Mike Carey five years ago.
His impending selection, which was formally announced Wednesday, was criticized earlier this week by Jim Daopoulos, who was quoted in The New York Times as saying the grading of some officials, including Boger, was altered.
Daopoulos worked 11 years as an on-field official and 12 years as a supervisor before joining NBC as an analyst.
"I'm looking at the seven guys who are working in the Super Bowl, and to be quite honest, several of them should not be on the field," Daopoulos told the Times.
Daopoulos told the paper he believed the league predetermined who would work the Super Bowl.
The league and the referees' union have denied such claims, citing the evaluation process. Ray Anderson, NFL executive vice president of football operations, called the allegations "patently false and insulting to Jerome Boger."
Attempts to reach Boger were unsuccessful. The NFL does not make officiating crews available before games.
Under the NFL officiating program's evaluation system, the highest-rated eligible officials at each position are chosen for the Super Bowl. The officials must have at least five years of NFL experience and previous playoff assignments.
The other game officials announced Wednesday are Darrell Jenkins (umpire), Steve Stelljes (head linesman), Byron Boston (line judge), Craig Wrolstad (field judge), Joe Larrew (side judge) and Dino Paganelli (back judge).
Boger's selection was applauded by the NFL Referees Association and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group of minority coaches, front office, scouting and gameday NFL officials.
"This is a well-deserved honor for each member of the crew," said Tim Millis, NFLRA executive director. "The Super Bowl XLVII crew, led by referee and crew chief Jerome Boger, all had an excellent 2012 season."
John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, called the criticism "unfair, inaccurate and offensive."
He said the league has "an elaborate system of checks and balances, and changes to the grading only occur after careful review and agreement by nine supervisors."
"There is an appeal process," he said. "The final scoring is calculated by an outside vendor. Tampering with Boger's grades so that he would be the top referee did not happen and could not happen. After a 17-week season, Jerome came out No. 1 in the scoring system fair and square. He earned the right to be the Super Bowl referee."
Boger worked the next-to-last game of the season between the Raiders and Panthers in Carolina. During that Panthers victory, quarterback Cam Newton bumped Boger while disputing a call. Newton was penalized but not ejected because Boger said he didn't feel the bump was enough to warrant an ejection.
"It wasn't of a malicious nature," Boger said at the time.