SEC schools hear fans frustrated over cell service


SEC schools hear fans frustrated over cell service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A popular question asked during SEC games this season has been: Do you have any service?

The increasing number of fans unhappy their smartphones and tablets aren't working has become a priority for the mighty Southeastern Conference. The need for more bandwidth at stadiums is a hot-button issue being studied by a fan experience group approved by league presidents and chancellors earlier this year.

The league is trying to take action before fans do.

``I've kind of resigned myself to the fact that checking scores and all that is not possible,'' said Alabama fan Chad Gilbert. ``It really kind of negatively impacts your experience and almost makes it not even fun to go ... You want to follow your other teams' scores or post a picture of your seats. You're kind of shut off from society for a few hours. Obviously, the main reason you're there is to watch the game, but you'd like to communicate with people and share your experience.''

Gilbert from Memphis, Tenn., has been a Crimson Tide season-ticket holder since graduating from Alabama nearly a decade ago. He said he's heard before each of the last couple of seasons that getting a connection on his smartphone would be easier - only to be disappointed. He said checking Twitter, Facebook or scores becomes impossible at Alabama's 101,821-seat stadium about three hours before kickoff until about an hour after the game ends.

``I can't do anything on my mobile device because it's so bogged down, and it's mostly people who have my carrier who have that issue. I pretty much know on game day after a certain time it's almost useless to even try,'' Gilbert said.

The fix seems to be more equipment - antennas, mobile boosters and cell towers.

The challenge for the SEC is coming up with a uniform solution.

The league has its own wireless contract with AT&T, which gives officials control over championship events. But each SEC school has individual deals with wireless providers, so reception varies from stadium to stadium. SEC officials have even talked to the NFL for tips on how to resolve the issue.

``Quite frankly, a lot of that is the cell carriers are trying to keep up as much as they can, and I know we've had some additional strength added from the companies that service our area,'' said Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, chairman of the SEC fan experience study group.

Several other schools have also added equipment.

Alabama and Florida added antennas before this season to improve the strength and capacity of wireless networks at their football stadiums. Tennessee announced new installations to help cell reception at Neyland Stadium in 2012. South Carolina worked with Verizon to bring in a mobile cell site called Cell on Wheels to double capacity around Williams-Brice Stadium.

While that's made the situation better, schools can't keep up with the technology.

Herb Vincent, LSU's associate vice chancellor for communications, said there is not ``an easy fix.''

Alabama found that out that not even the new antenna network was enough and added more cell servers before hosting Mississippi State on Oct. 27. Milton Overton, who oversees technology for Alabama, said they found text messages didn't go through sometimes until an hour two after games, and Tide officials will survey fans again at the end of the season to check for issues.

``Any sports venue today, they expect it to be connected,'' Overton said.

The SEC's popularity only adds to the problem.

SEC games create mini-cities: Tennessee's capacity is 102,455 with Georgia and LSU both over 92,000. Gilbert said he managed to connect when his Crimson Tide played at Missouri in October - but only after a big rain storm sent thousands of fans home early in the second quarter.

Not even Vanderbilt, the SEC's smallest stadium seating 40,350, is immune.

Chris Cashwell, 43, of Franklin, Tenn., uses Twitter to enhance his game-day experience at Vanderbilt with injury updates, notes and opinions from others on plays he couldn't see. Cashwell said he quickly got dependent on Twitter and had no issues against teams like Presbyterian or Massachusetts only to be unable to connect against any SEC opponent. Luckily, his son's new 4G iPhone helped him check Twitter when Tennessee benched Tyler Bray last weekend.

Cashwell's 14-year-old son also pointed out why his cell battery was nearly dead after a game.

``He said, `That's because you were trying to post to Twitter and Facebook the whole time so it was looking for that signal and running it down,''' Cashwell said.

Vanderbilt asked its wireless providers to test their systems for weaknesses during home games this fall so they can add enough equipment to meet demand next season. Steve Walsh, Vanderbilt's associate director of athletics and director of sales and marketing, said the Commodores want to make better use of their new video board to post Twitter comments and Facebook updates to expand on the replays already being shown to meet fan demand.

Alabama already does that with Facebook posts - when they go through.

``We definitely recognize it as an issue that's not going away anytime soon,'' Walsh said. ``It's going to continue to become a larger story.''

SEC fans should stay tuned - if they can stay connected.


AP Sports Writers John Zenor in Birmingham, Ala., Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., David Brandt in Starkville, Miss., Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., and Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.


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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Davis as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 


Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 



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