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    THURSDAY, JULY 5, 2007
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    BROOKE MILAM

    Growing site will give fans plenty of preps

    High school sports fans in Tennessee have all the information they need right at their fingertips.

    With CoachT.com, every prep roster, schedule and score — as well as pictures and article links — are just a few keystrokes away.

    And as a Chattanooga native, I can tell you that you don’t have to be at a high school sporting event in the Volunteer State long to hear the name “Coach T” floating around.

    CoachT.com provides high school sports fans with all the tools they need to feed their cravings.

    Most people probably think “Coach T” is just folklore. But former coach and veteran teacher of 29 years, Jim Thompson, is the mastermind behind the Web site that has captivated high school sports fans in Tennessee, registering more than 225 million hits last year. Soon, fans in Alabama will experience the same benefits of Thompson’s labor.

    This year, CoachT.com is celebrating its 10th anniversary by expanding to the state of Alabama, where Thompson said he feels sure the project will thrive for one major reason: The enthusiasm of high school sports fans.

    “We wanted to go somewhere, and Alabama is close, it’s an avid football state and it’s growing by leaps and bounds in other sports,” Thompson said.

    “We think it’ll do well. I’m getting excited about it.”

    Thompson, who lives in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., just over the state line approximately 35 miles northwest of Florence, said fans in Alabama can expect to see the site before football season begins. Thompson operates as little more than a one-man show on the Tennessee site, but will enlist extra help to get the site up and running for Alabama. The target date for launching the Alabama-style sister site is Aug. 1.

    “I think it can be just as good in Alabama as it is in Tennessee,” Thompson said. “It’ll take people a while to realize how persistent I am.”

    “I don’t go away,” he added with a laugh.

    This is no average undertaking, but Thompson’s dedication to the project is far beyond average. And as a result, his isn’t just another Web site. He said his site doesn’t try to do too much, but operates by the philosophy “Let’s do what we do well.”

    Thompson said that if Alabama users go to CoachT.com and look around, they can expect the same features as the Tennessee version.

    And to answer the question that many people want answered before they get hooked, it’s completely free.

    “It never has to cost anything for high school stuff,” Thompson said.

    The easy-to-navigate site makes it enjoyable even for people that don’t consider themselves computer-savvy.

    Thompson spends several hours every morning updating the site with links to current online newspaper articles throughout the state, so that fans have easy access.

    “People want their information so fast now days,” Thompson said.

    In return, fans are relied upon to report scores. They even can enter scores themselves.

    “Fans like the fact that it makes it a fan site,” Thompson said.

    Thompson said it’s surprising how well the system works and that fraudulent reports have never been much of a problem. On a typical fall Friday night, there are never more than a handful of stray scores and often the scoreboards are complete.

    One of the biggest draws to the site is its game-picks link, allowing high school sports gurus to see how they stack up against hundreds of other fans. Football games are posted each week in-season on CoachT.com, and selected basketball games are posted a couple of times a week in the winter.

    Records are listed beside schools’ names and fans can make their pick by a simple click of the mouse. CoachT.com tabulates the results and ranks fans based on their correct picks. The results are then posted so lucky fans, under a screen name alias if preferred, can achieve cyber fame.

    CoachT.com also provides forums. The Tennessee site has nearly 65,000 users registered for its message boards. Some post messages, and some just read, or “watch,” as Thompson puts it.

    And while Thompson is the first to admit that forum discussions can become heated quickly, his site is also unique in that he make a concerted effort to ensure that users don’t cross the line.

    Thompson said he has booted around 25,000 users through the years, and also has banned others for posting false scores and information.

    But those negatives don’t overshadow the positives.

    Thompson values high school athletes and their achievements, and while he said he doesn’t seek to become a recruiting site, he added that the college prospect databases on CoachT.com also have been popular.

    “People enjoy seeing their names on there and kids like seeing that,” he said.

    Although Thompson said he doesn’t try to rank prospects, the site provides information on top players along with statistics and which schools are recruiting them.

    Thompson said it’s not his intention to run just another gossip site. He seeks to provide information to better inform fans and make high school sports fun for all ages.

    And what better place to do it than Alabama?

    High school sports are alive and thriving in the state, and Thompson’s Web site is designed to fuel that fire.

    Brooke Milam Brooke Milam
    DAILY Sports Writer

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