Column: How MaxPreps changed the high school sports landscape

Let’s all sing the birthday song together:

“Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday, dear MaxPreps…”

Yes, this is MaxPreps’ 20th year and few organizations have been more critical in bringing collegiate sports into the digital age.

You have to remember what it was like before MaxPreps was founded in the Sacramento area in 2002 by California resident Andy Beal.

Rosters, schedules and results were sometimes distributed or confirmed by Pony Express. Seriously, the information was gathered through phone calls or by asking trainers and freelancers to report results to newspapers. At a City Section football game, reporters asked the players on the sidelines, one by one, to give their names because rosters or programs were rarely made available.

MaxPreps’ idea of ​​creating a central location for reporting results, viewing rosters, statistics, and schedules took years, relying on schools voluntarily putting in their time and effort to enter the information. Some sections asked and urged coaches for help. It was a slow but steady improvement, and even today certain sports still have holdouts for stats and rosters.

MaxPreps was eventually bought by the owners of CBS Sports Digital in 2007 and now fits executives’ favorite word – synergy – as CBS also acquired recruiting service 247Sports in 2015. He is active in all 50 states.

There’s a little rivalry in California. In 2019, the relatively new Scorebook Live surpassed MaxPreps as the exclusive digital provider of the California Interscholastic Federation, the state governing body for high school sports. There was a mini-rebellion among schools that wanted to keep using MaxPreps and not switch to Scorebook Live, who had told the CIF that they were developing a live scoring platform so fans could get continuous scores from a game.

Scorebook Live, which has since become SB Live Sports, has learned that the process of gaining loyalty and volunteers is painfully slow. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, so the transition didn’t go well.

MaxPreps was welcomed back a year later with a new deal. It now shares all information entered on the CIF homepage (results and fixtures) which automatically goes to both MaxPreps and SB Live. Interestingly, SB Live appears to have changed strategy to focus more on written, social media, and recruitment content than scores, hiring both the picture editor and MaxPreps’ top California staff writer to help its cause.

The CIF sponsorship deals with MaxPreps and SB Live expire in 2023, so what happens next is unclear, but the lesson from last time is that schools have been vocal about not wanting to lose MaxPreps. If both are satisfied with the current arrangement of information exchange, the CIF would certainly be satisfied as well. But the CIF will say first: “Show me the money!”

MaxPreps has proven to be a valuable archive for former high school athletes who want to go back in time to show their children and grandchildren what they did in high school. His records date back to 2004, allowing many to see who was on a team or how many yards someone had if a school entered the information.

MaxPreps has never been bigger or more profitable. The rankings, photos and national reporting will be further expanded. The people who run it know that building the trust and support of local customers is the be-all and end-all of a successful digital business. MaxPreps is only as successful as the volunteers at thousands of schools across the country.

The CIF still wants live scoring to become part of the digital environment.

Will it be the MaxPreps platform or SB Live that delivers?

“We would all like to get to the point where live scoring would become the norm,” said Ron Nocetti, executive director of CIF. “I think we’ll make it.”

Let’s hope it happens in the next 20 years. Congratulations to MaxPreps. And many more. Column: How MaxPreps changed the high school sports landscape

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