CIF’s New Digital World


How will the switch of the CIF’s digital platform partnership from MaxPreps to Scorebook Live impact the state’s media landscape? As part of it for 40 years and having seen many organizations succeed or fail, we look at what this move may mean.

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Saying that the CIF and MaxPreps.com have had a divorce may be extreme, but there has been a split between the two groups that have served each other well since MaxPreps emerged as a major influence in California high school sports roughly eight to 10 years ago.

In May, the CIF announced it was entering into a new five-year agreement with Scorebook Live as its official digital content provider.

The Scorebook Live website says it provides teams, leagues and tournaments with the tools to publish real-time content to their fans.

MaxPreps will no longer work with the CIF in an official capacity, but the national website certainly will do all that it can to continue to live up to its motto as “America’s Source for High School Sports.”

The MaxPreps Story

The technology-media company, based in Cameron Park near Sacramento, began in the early 2000s with goals of serving newspapers around the country with a technology platform to aid them in their coverage of high school teams, athletes and schools.

Founder and president Andy Beal (a Canoga Park High grad who played basketball there) smartly and quickly changed the plan for the company to become its own website providing that same platform so coaches could directly input their team’s stats, scores could be collected, computer-based team rankings offered, and more.

At the same time, in the middle of the 2000s, Cal-Hi Sports was part of Student Sports (Rivals.com) and in the process of being purchased by ESPN. We’d look at the MaxPreps model, which to us at the time depended too much on coaches to input data, and were doubtful that it would work.

Our ESPN experiences, though, had much bigger problems, and by 2012 it wasn’t us but MaxPreps, purchased by then by CBS, that had overcome its early growing pains and was gaining in popularity not just in California but in many states around the nation.

Utilizing partnerships with the CIF and its sections (and with other state associations nationally) clearly aided MaxPreps in its initiatives to get coaches and schools to input data.

Over the years, it’s become as common to see the MaxPreps logo at CIF state championship events as those of other CIF corporate sponsors such as Gatorade and Farmer’s Insurance.

Will California Coaches Still Use The MaxPreps’ Platform?

This is probably the $100,000 question of the CIF no longer partnering with MaxPreps and now being aligned with Scorebook Live.

In some cases, the CIF sections have mandated that coaches input their team stats into the MaxPreps’ system. One of Scorebook Live’s benefits, though, is that once a team is using its platform, coaches will no longer have to do that. It’ll automatically be done for them. Also, according to Scorebook Live’s website, “coaches no longer need to call in scores to local media partners.”

Obviously, in the last few years, MaxPreps has become much, much more than the data entered into its system by coaches and schools. Its overall content presentation with videos, blogs, social media and here in California the great work done by longtime contributor Mitch Stephens of Antioch (and still San Francisco Chronicle high school editor) will probably continue to offer plenty of incentives for most schools and coaches to continue to participate.

Will Scorebook Live Provide Computer Rankings?

This will be another interesting evolution of the Scorebook Live platform.

The current website doesn’t have them and in the CIF press release announcing the deal it only states that rankings will be provided. It doesn’t say if those rankings will be computer-generated or not.

We, of course, have always done team rankings by our own system and believe they are as accurate as any other. Still, computer rankings can go much deeper than 25 or 50 teams and some sections of the state have used the MaxPreps computer rankings as part of their process to seed teams into playoff brackets in many sports.

At least one section we know of (as of late May) wasn’t sure what it was going to do without MaxPreps’ computer rankings. The only assumption is that the sections aren’t going to be using MaxPreps’ rankings like they have been.

Where Does Cal-Hi Sports Fit Into All This?

We were with ESPN when Scorebook Live began in the San Diego area as an app to replace traditional basketball scorebooks. Like MaxPreps, it’s been a company that has grown in many ways in recent years.

With GameChanger (seeing more and more teams using it in softball and baseball) and other entities, the fight should be more intense in the coming few years among companies trying to gather and present high school scores, standings, stats, standings, and more.

All of these companies also have to wonder how many more schools and teams will just use Twitter to promote their programs. We’d recommend MaxPreps for the stat leaders and computer rankings and Scorebook Live for the real-time experience, but a team really could do a lot of that just by running its own Twitter page. And with Twitter, a school isn’t part of another media company’s content and advertising strategy. It can control the messages it wants to get out to the public in any way it wants. Both the Mater Dei of Santa Ana and St. John Bosco of Bellflower football twitter pages have long ago exceeded 10,000 followers. They could simply add a list of stat leaders every week to those pages, throw up a video of the head coaches being interviewed, and why would anyone need to go anywhere else to follow those two super teams?

Compared in size and scope and user interactions, we’re small potatoes in the MaxPreps-Scorebook Live competition.

But for what we do – team rankings with breakdowns and analysis included (not just a list), all-time state records in five sports, all-state teams and statewide honors with more than 100 years of history attached – it won’t matter what happens in that competition. Neither one of them and the CIF itself has the historical archives and historical clout as Cal-Hi Sports. It’s our little niche in this big, bold marketplace and we’ll just continue to build on that.

Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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