As I began to look back at the first 10 years of PrepsKC I thought it might be fun to tell how the story began. PrepsKC may have launched to the world on June 3, 2010, but a lot of work and thought went into that day becoming a reality.
In March of 2009 Brian Johnston contacted me about hosting a two-hour high school football radio show. It was called Football Friday Night and it aired on KCWJ AM 1030. The show had been on for two seasons already and had been hosted by former Metro Sports anchor Chad Harberts.
Harberts was leaving the area and Johnston needed a new host. At the time I was working for a small general contractor after leaving The Examiner in January 2007. I missed high school sports even though I stayed close to football watching my nephew complete his high school career.
I agreed to host the show and worked it out with my current employer to allow me the time to do it on Friday afternoons. As spring turned to summer the economy started to crash and the construction business started to fall off in a big way. In June 2009 I was laid off and looking for something else.
With the football season approaching Johnston and I talked about the show. He gave me the format Harberts used and suggested maybe a co-host could make the show better. We thought about it and wondered if the newly retired Harold Wambsgans would like to try it out. Coach Wambs said yes and after a few meetings we were ready to broadcast our first show.
So on Friday August 28, 2009 Coach Wambs and I sat in front of microphones ready to break down week 1 of the Missouri season which started later that evening. We did an hour on Missouri and an hour on Kansas. I had done what I thought was a decent amount of prep from the sources I could find in print and online. It wasn’t enough so I knew we had to do more.
That’s where the fun began. Each week I was spending 10-12 hours just trying to find standings, schedules and scores along with player stats and just the general things needed to produce an informative and entertaining weekly show.
Johnston and I talked about the lack of high school football coverage in the Metro at the time. It was the beginning of the shrinking of newspaper staffs across the country while at the same time the internet was taking a bigger piece of people’s attention.
After 10 weeks of the show we continued to discuss what could be possible. Johnston’s background is in sales and mine was in journalism. He had also done radio play by play with Vision Sports covering Blue Springs and Blue Springs South and was the play by play voice for Pittsburg State football, so he had a strong journalism background as well.
We talked about a website with standings, stories and photos. We wanted to do a live scoreboard so fans could follow along as the games were happening not wait for a three-minute television spot with maybe 15-20 games listed or waiting until the paper hit your door the next morning.
From there the idea of audio was brought up. Not just the weekly radio show but podcasts which were becoming popular at that time. We wanted to make sure we had audio from the players and coaches before games, after games and during the offseason. We thought that people would like podcasts, we didn’t know it would become some of the most popular content we produced.
The idea of a website was taking shape. We already had a radio show. The question was if we needed more. Print was important in 2009 and we began discussions on what a weekly magazine would look like. It needed to include game previews, features and columns. Something to hold in your hand as you were getting ready for the upcoming games.
Johnston began to work on the business plan while also discussing the ideas with members of the board of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association. Johnston is the co-executive director of the GKCFCA and knew their input would be vital. When he was ready, he sat down with Greg Smith who was the president of the GKCFCA at the time and sought his feedback. Smith was in favor of the plan and was an early champion of the project along with the GKCFCA.
So with a plan in place we got to work in earnest. After finding a cost-effective and talented web designer we moved forward with a two-part plan. With early sponsors like The McCarthy Auto Group and RE/MAX the website was possible along with the radio show.
The costs of the magazine would mean we would need more. We launched on June 3, with PrepsKC.com with stories telling who we were and what we were about along with previews of the upcoming all-star game. We had podcasts with the first being me telling people what this whole thing was and then three from the Liberty North’s summer camp. The school and team were brand new just like us, so it seemed like a good place to start.
As June turned into July the question was would the magazine be possible? I can remember a phone conversation with Johnston as I put gas in my truck in Mound City, Mo. My wife, three-month old son and I were returning from a family trip to Omaha and Johnston said we were a go.
So the plan was in place and we went from there. Over the summer the site was completed with schedules from more than 130 teams. The magazine was planned out and designed and new computers and software were purchased.
There were some nerves of course. Johnston asked me and Jeff Fox who designed and edited the magazine if we would make deadline for the first magazine as we were about a day out. Of course Fox and I had been putting out a daily newspaper for years and knew you can put a whole paper together in less than a day.
The first Friday night was scary as we sat in my basement waiting for scores to be texted to us on my Blackberry (kids look it up it was a type of phone). In the end it all that first week and beyond a hiccup here and there it has worked for 10 years.
Things have changed. The magazine went away after four years and was replaced by the app and eventually our brand new mobile-friendly site. We get our scores through our live stat system Digital Scout along with our score reporters.
What has stayed constant is quality writing, photographs, audio and video. We strive to right, informative and first in that order. That started day one and continues today.
I’ll share a few more stories of the first 10 years this offseason. It’s been a fun ride and I hope you enjoy looking back with us.