clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Super Bowl XL referee Bill Leavy dies at 76

Leavy is forever linked to the story of the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl appearance.

Super Bowl XL Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Longtime NFL official Bill Leavy, who refereed the first Super Bowl in Seattle Seahawks franchise history back in 2006, died on Tuesday. News of his passing was first reported by Football Zebras and confirmed by the NFL on Thursday.

Leavy was hired by the NFL in 1995 as a field judge, and worked his way up to lead referee in 2001, a position he maintained until 2014. After his on-field retirement, Leavy spent his final years as a supervisor in the NFL’s officiating department.

This is a Seattle Seahawks blog and thus we cannot ignore that the team’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL was mired in controversy over the officiating, which felt like it was tilted in favor of Pittsburgh. Notable calls included the offensive pass interference on Darrell Jackson that negated a Seahawks first-quarter touchdown, the Ben Roethlisberger rushing touchdown (upheld after review), the holding penalty on Sean Locklear that wiped out a completed pass to Jerramy Stevens at the 1-yard line with Seattle looking for the go-ahead score in the final quarter, and two plays later the objectively wrong low block penalty on Matt Hasselbeck when he tackled Ike Taylor on an interception return.

“We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren said upon the team’s return to Seattle. “I didn’t know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well.”

The NFL stood by the officiating in the game but never fined Holmgren for those remarks, believe it or not. Leavy wouldn’t officiate another Seahawks game until 2009, and he actually reffed the Seahawks-Steelers game in Pittsburgh in 2011.

In 2010, Leavy went to the Seahawks’ preseason training camp in Renton as part of the NFL’s annual rules interpretation session, and he admitted to local media that he was haunted by errors made in that game.

“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.”

Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck shared a story of how he befriended Leavy in 2009 and how their conversations impacted him personally.

In addition to his days as a referee, Leavy previously worked for more than 20 years as a police officer and firefighter in his hometown of San Jose, California.

Bill Leavy was 76 years old.