|Occupation||NFL official (1995–2014)|
Bill Leavy (pronounced LEE-vee) is a retired American football official who officiated in the National Football League (NFL) from the 1995 through 2014 seasons, wore uniform number 127, and is also a retired San Jose, California police officer and firefighter, serving for 27 years. Leavy was, in his twenty-year NFL officiating career, assigned to fifteen playoff games, including two Super Bowls. He was selected as a back judge on the Super Bowl XXXIV officiating crew in 2000 and most recently headed up the Super Bowl XL officiating crew as referee in 2006.
- 1 Personal
- 2 Officiating career
- 3 Memorable games
- 4 References
Leavy is a 1965 graduate of Santa Barbara High School in Santa Barbara, California and a 1970 graduate of San Jose State University in San Jose, California where he earned a degree in law enforcement. Just before earning his degree, he joined the San Jose Police Department in September 1969. During his high school and college years, Leavy's athletic interests included swimming and football.
As a member of the San Jose Police Athletic League (PAL), he was introduced to football officiating by a fellow PAL officer, who was a high school football official. Between the 1970s and 1984, Leavy worked several all-star, playoff, championship games at the high school and junior college levels.
Bill lives in San Jose, California.
Leavy joined the Big West Conference, a Division I college conference, in 1984. During his 11 seasons in Division I football, he worked four college bowl games (Independence, Freedom, California and Las Vegas).
In December 1994, Leavy received a call from then NFL Supervisor of Officials, Jerry Seeman, that he was selected as one of 12 finalists for open positions beginning with the 1995 NFL season. On March 27, 1995, Leavy was hired by the league as a field judge. Leavy's first game was a pre-season matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills at Texas Stadium. For seven seasons, Leavy worked as a field judge and later as a back judge, when the league swapped position names in 1998, before being promoted to referee for the 2001 NFL season. This opportunity at the referee position became available as a result of Phil Luckett returning to his original back judge position due to the time commitment that is involved to be a successful crew chief.
Outside of the NFL, Leavy was hired in 1998 as the Coordinator of Football Officials for the Western Athletic Conference and was appointed Coordinator of Football Officials for the Mountain West Conference in 1999.
Super Bowl XL
Leavy's first Super Bowl as referee did not go unnoticed by the media and fans as several controversial calls were made throughout the game. Seattle coach, Mike Holmgren, at a team rally on February 6 at Qwest Field, criticized the officials as he felt they assisted the Pittsburgh Steelers in winning the Super Bowl saying, "We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."  The NFL did not fine Holmgren for the remarks.
In response to the criticisms leveled at the officials, the NFL, just two days after the game, released a statement defending the officials' performance. "The game was properly officiated, including, as in most NFL games, some tight plays that produced disagreement about the calls made by the officials," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.
Mike Pereira, Supervisor of Officials, appeared on the NFL Network show, Total Access, stating that the calls were correct with the exception of the penalty called against Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for an illegal low block in the fourth quarter.
On August 6, 2010, while visiting the Seahawks' preseason training camp for an annual rules interpretation session with the Seattle media, Leavy brought up Super Bowl XL without being asked:
|“||It was a tough thing for me. I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better.... I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn't good enough.... When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It's something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl it's difficult.||”|
He never mentioned specifically on which calls he made mistakes.
2011 Divisional Playoff Game (Giants at Packers)
Leavy once again drew controversy during the first quarter of the 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers. Packers receiver Greg Jennings caught a pass and appeared to fumble just before he was tackled. It was initially ruled it as a fumble, but after a conference, officials ultimately ruled that Jennings was down by contact. The Giants challenged the call, but after reviewing the play, Leavy announced that the down-by-contact call would stand. Former NFL head of officiating and current Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira was perplexed with Leavy's ruling, and said on the air that he would have reversed it back to a fumble. The league would later issue a statement suggesting that the reason why Leavy did not overturn the down-by-contact rule was primarily because there was no indisputable visual evidence as to whether Jennings' calf touched the ground before he fumbled.
2013 Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Leavy was downgraded one day after an officiating mistake that allowed the 49ers an additional chance at a third-down conversion inside the Packers' 10-yard line. Two offsetting dead ball flags were thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct and Leavy awarded a replay of the down. However, since both fouls occurred after the play had ended, the play should have counted without replaying the down. The 49ers went on to score a touchdown on the next play, en route to a 34–28 win. The league would later state that no penalty should have been called on the 49ers, only on Green Bay, which would have instead given San Francisco an automatic first down.
2013 Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers
Bill Leavy's crew officiated the Week 17 contest between Kansas City and San Diego, with the Chargers needing a win to get into the playoffs; otherwise, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have clinched the postseason spot instead. There were two controversial calls. First, officials missed calling an illegal formation penalty on San Diego, as per a new 2013 rule for having seven men on one side of the long snapper, during Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop's missed 41-yard field goal attempt that would have given Kansas City the lead with eight seconds left in regulation. Then in overtime, San Diego's Eric Weddle ran up the middle during a fake punt for a first down inside the Chargers' own territory. Even though the officials immediately ruled that his forward progress was stopped, replays appeared to show that he lost the ball prior to, which was then picked up by a Chiefs player and returned the other way to the end zone. However, the ruling of "forward progress" is a judgement call that is not reviewable. In addition, Weddle was ruled to have been stopped right at first down line, close enough to warrant a replay review, but the replay official decided not to. The Chargers then went on to win in overtime to advance to the postseason.
- In the game that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks, Leavy was assigned to work a game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco between the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams. Paying tribute to the New York City police and firefighters who served during and in the aftermath of the attacks, Leavy wore a San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) hat during the coin toss. Just prior to the coin toss, Leavy announced that it was "my special privilege to be [here] [today] after serving 27 years as a police officer and firefighter in San Jose."
- Television analyst John Madden commented during a Monday Night Football telecast that Leavy has great control of the game and reminded Madden of legendary NFL referee Jim Tunney.
- Leavy was inadvertently struck in the back of the head by a player while trying to break up a fight during a National Football Conference (NFC) Wild Card playoff game on January 8, 2000 between the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. He was not forced to leave the game.
- "R Bill Leavy retires after 20 seasons". Football Zebras. 2015-05-13. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
- Pasquarelli, Len (2006-02-08). "NFL will review Holmgren comments". ESPN. Archived from the original on 27 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-05.
- "NFL Notebook: Game 'properly officiated'". Associated Press. 2006-02-08. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- "Official Review" (RealAudio). NFL Network. 2005. Retrieved 2007-09-16.[dead link]
- "Referee of Seattle's Super Bowl Loss Admits Errors". ABC News. Archived from the original on 15 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- "Referee of Seattle's Super Bowl loss admits errors'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 2010-08-06. Retrieved 2010-08-06.[dead link]
- "Packers catch a break as Coughlin loses challenge on Jennings fumble". Profootballtalk.com. 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "League explains Leavy's replay ruling". Profootballtalk.com. 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
- "NFL downgrades ref Bill Leavy". ESPN. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- "Referee admits botching call that led to 49ers' TD". USA Today. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- "Second 49ers-Packers officiating error: Joe Staley didn't commit penalty". USA Today. 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- "Chiefs should have gotten another chance to boot Steelers into playoffs". ProFootballTalk. December 30, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
- "Leavy decided forward progress was stopped in San Diego". ProFootballTalk. December 29, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2013.
- Sparrer, Dick (2002-08-28). "Good guys wear white hats". Willow Glen Resident. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- "Skinned alive". Sports Illustrated. 2000-01-12. Retrieved 2006-08-06.