Connor Croll

Connor Croll

A University of Alabama freshman accused of phoning in a bomb threat to a packed Tiger Stadium during the high-profile LSU-Florida game pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge that carries up to 20 years in prison.

Connor Bruce Croll, 19, was charged Friday by the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office with communicating false information of a planned bombing on school property.

Croll, of Crozet, Virginia, pleaded not guilty before state District Judge Fred Crifasi, who scheduled Croll's next court date for Jan. 8. State District Judge-elect Tarvald Smith will preside over the case.

"He seems like a good person," said Baton Rouge lawyer James Rothkamm, who represents Croll. "We're just waiting on all the information before determining how to proceed."

A call came into Baton Rouge Police Department's nonemergency line during the LSU-Florida game Oct. 12 stating "there is a bomb in the stadium," according to East Baton Rouge Parish Prison booking records. Detectives were able to trace the call to Croll's phone and learned that he was a student at the University of Alabama.

Officials contacted the University of Alabama Police Department and Croll was quickly located and placed under arrest. Police say he confessed to making the threat in an attempt to halt the game because "his friend was on the verge of losing a large bet."

LSU beat Florida 42-28.

The game drew a crowd of 102,321.

ESPN, which televised the game, said it was the network's most-watched college football game in nearly two years and ranked in the top five of ESPN's most-watched October games of the last quarter-century. The game was viewed by an average of 6,450,000 viewers and peaked at 7,428,000 late in the fourth quarter.

The game was the most popular sporting event nationwide that day, ESPN said.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.