Oct. 5, 2011
BY JOHN PAINTER
There's cutting edge technology, and then there is UT's Robert Brady.
Brady serves the athletics department as a Senior Technical Supervisor II, which means he's capable of programing and repairing nearly any electronics device at UT's eight sports venues.
It also means his biggest toy is a 4,580-square foot Mitsubishi video board at Neyland Stadium.
"That's a pretty fair job description," Brady said. "The IT folks handle some of the things, but I do anything that's got a video board and all that stuff. I don't really do the graphics. I'm more the maintenance and making sure it works correctly.
"I will go up inside the video board and replace modules they think need to be replaced. All the ribbon boards, those are mine. The graphics are done by IMG; we contract out for that. I'll handle everything else."
Thompson-Boling Arena is preparing to unveil new ribbon boards to complement the already spectacular center-hung scoreboard. Brady says the "ring" boards as he calls them will be noticed.
"It's going to be a lot nicer, newer," he said. "LED technology went in, so it's going to be brighter, more crisp. It's made for indoors, which is nice. It's all new.
"The typical person may not say, `Oh, that looks nicer than what they have over at the stadium,' but there will be a difference. The way they arrange the LEDs is different for nicer viewing angles. The brightness of the LEDs will be much nicer and the crispness is going to be phenomenal."
Football has seen tremendous upgrades in technology since UT first began contracting with Brady to service products in the late 1990s.
The stadium went from four small incandescent scoreboards, fixed digit, to adding a Sony Jumbotron in 1999. UT then installed all-LED ribbon boards with corner signage in 2006. In 2009, the state-of-the-art Mitsubishi video board, all LED, replaced the 10-year-old Jumbotron.
"Those were major upgrades," Brady said. "And they certainly add to the fan experience.
"Now we're doing more and more with the TV servers. We're sending data to the flat screens in concession stands, sky boxes and booths to have those display not only the game telecast but also stats and other information, anywhere there's a television."
"Really it was all on the job," he said. "I started with a local company in 1999 and the next year they pulled me in to start working on electronic stuff. I had been doing just mechanical at that point.
"That's when I came over to UT and started working on their video boards and fixed-digit scoreboards. As technology has been updated here, I've just been going along with it learning as it comes."
Plus his family is Big Orange through and through - another perfect fit.
"My brother, William, is the biggest UT fan I know," Brady said. "My dad and my step-mom are huge fans. I guess it was natural for me to work here."
Brady's typical game week schedule includes Fridays spent at Neyland Stadium dealing with, as Brady puts it, technical issues.
"Typically, I will come and check everything out - all the rings, the lights and everything," Brady said. "I make sure everything's lighting up appropriately, everything's working correctly, all the LEDs are nice and bright, nothing's brighter than the rest.
"Fingers crossed, I'm ready by the time I walk out of here Friday at 6 p.m. You have to be done by 6 because they lock down the stadium. Saturday, hopefully, it's just come in, turn everything on and put the graphics up to make it work."
"Oh, yes," he said. "When that happens, I'm usually scrambling to find what the problem is, how I can fix it and what I need to fix it. A few years ago we had flickering issues on the LED rings. A couple games ago we had our firewall blocking Internet data we needed for score streaming.
"Last spring at tennis, we were installing new point-by-point scoreboards on all the courts and we didn't receive the necessary parts to make it work. That turned into a 36-hour job - 36 straight hours."
And the fun part?
"When it all works and I can sit there and watch the game."
Fans should enjoy Tennessee's technology upgrades from the comfort of their seats. Take concession breaks knowing they won't miss a thing. And pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
That man is Robert Brady, Mr. Scoreboard, on call for the Vols and Lady Vols no matter the venue.
Added Brady, "Every sport, any scoreboard, whether fixed-digit or LED, I'm there."