WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It was late July when the idea for this website was hatched in, of all places, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
A big part of my new-ish media business is in book publishing, and I was in Tuscaloosa doing several book signings with one of my authors, Christopher Walsh. Chris and I had just published an Alabama football book in July called "Decade Of Dominance" that's been selling like crazy, and during our several months together, we talked about his new website on the Maven platform, www.bamacentral.com, that's all Alabama all the time.
It was the first of a dozen or so websites that were started in 2018 on the Maven platform. When Maven started growing like crazy, I paid attention. And when Maven bought Sports Illustrated late this summer, I was definitely paying attention.
The reason for that is because I have been a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 40 years at places like the Tampa Bay Times, the Indianapolis Star and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. And I know first-hand how newspapers are dying — and dying quickly, I know that immediate, fresh and creative content online is not only the future, but it's the present as well.
A storytelling past, with the scars to prove it
I know what it's like to experience newspapers collapsing all around us. I was the assistant sports editor of the Indianapolis Star for four years and I got laid off as part of a 786-person purging by Gannett with a impersonal 30-second phone call while I was shopping at Meijer.
I also cursed and cursed for four years that the Indianapolis Star — the largest newspaper in the state of Indiana, for Pete's sake — didn't want to cover Purdue anymore with its own people, relying on content from Lafayette's newspaper. I always though the Star treated Purdue fans like second-class citizens — and I still do.
For the past few years, I've watched the online landscape closely, looking for the right opportunity. I did editing and management for a couple of companies that claimed they wanted to cover the Big Ten. One is gone now (Land of 10) and the other is still around, but all they care about are five or six football schools. They called themselves Big Ten sites, but they couldn't have ignored schools like Purdue and Indiana any more than they did — or still do.
So when the Sports Illustrated deal was finalized, I picked Christopher's brain and had several conversations with Maven/SI executives. As an Indiana native living here in Northwest Indiana, I wanted to be a part of it, and I wanted to do it right.
We had conversations about launching sites here in Indiana for our three major schools, Purdue, Indiana and Notre Dame. They had a guy for South Bend, and I wanted to start the other two and do it as I had always hoped.
Logic won out when they reminded me that there are only 168 hours in a week and launching two sites myself wasn't feasible, time-wise. So we started with an Indiana site first on Aug. 1 — mavensports.io/indiana — but I stayed in their ear that we needed to do Purdue, too, once time and money allowed it. We needed it for statewide content, but statewide advertisers, too.
And now we're here.
Today we launch our new site — mavensports.io/purdue — and in a few weeks once all the rebranding is done, it will simply be si.com/purdue under the huge and impressive Sports Illustrated banner.
We have several Big Ten sites now, all run by veteran writers with years of experience around the league. We have a Notre Dame site, too. But our logic says while that's all great, it's Purdue stuff that you care about the most, and it's not even close.
So that's my promise to you, that we'll deliver.
My first hire is beat reporter Brady Extin, and he'll be on campus every day that there is media availability for both football and men's basketball. We're starting there, and we will get to other sports down the road, but for now I am an under-sell and over-deliver guy. We'll start here with football and men's basketball — and do it right.
There will be more hires coming, and a promise that the best Purdue content you can find will be right here. We'll have stories galore, but we'll also have opinion pieces, takeouts, podcasts, videos and so much more.
We will be adding a recruiting writer soon who will keep you updated on Purdue's main targets in football and basketball. We'll be adding video and on-screen talent too, so you get stuff you can't get anywhere else.
We will make you happy. That's my goal, and that's my promise.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room
OK, we might as well get to it on Day 1. I grew up in Schererville up in "The Region'' and I went to Lake Central High School, graduating in 1976. I was lucky enough that I knew what I wanted to do with my life — write about sports — and I was fortunate enough that the best undergraduate journalism school in the country was right here in Indiana.
Yes, I am a proud graduate of Indiana University.
And while that makes me a Hoosier, I've got a few great stories to tell you why I've loved writing a lot of Purdue stories in my lifetime. (And if I had wanted to be an engineer like my nephew, I would have gone to Purdue! His paychecks CRUSH mine!)
My time in West Lafayette started my senior year in college in 1980. I was covering IU basketball for the Indiana Daily Student, but Bob Knight hated me for a few things I wrote and I was banned from access to IU players and coaches. I vowed to cover the team anyway, and I did the best I could.
So I wrote about Indiana's opponents a lot — and I spent a lot of time at Purdue. Lee Rose, the coach of that 1980 Purdue Final Four team, thought it was ridiculous that Knight was treating me the way he did. So leading up to the THREE Indiana-Purdue games that year, Rose always gave me whatever access I needed.
And when Purdue beat Indiana in the NCAA Tournament that year in Lexington, Ky. — the only time they've ever played in the tournament — it was Lee Rose who answered all my questions that day while Knight simply stared me down and went on to the next guy as I asked a question.
A month or so later, my future boss at the St. Petersburg Times down in Florida called me and said they were hearing rumors about Rose leaving Purdue to take the job at South Florida in Tampa. He asked if I had any Purdue contacts.
Sure, I said.
Five minutes later, I had Lee Rose on the phone. Ten minutes after that, I had confirmation that he was taking the job. Pre-internet days, the story didn't come out until the next morning's paper. (It was in the Lafayette paper, too, and a few others)
Rose and I both moved to Tampa Bay at the same time. I covered USF for a few of his years, and we remained friends after he left.
It's the same now. Sure, I am an IU guy and I will be writing a lot of Indiana content, too, but I have a great deal of respect for Jeff Brohm and Matt Painter. I love the way both of them coach, and they're quality people as well. When I was doing a writing project at Lake Central in 2012, Painter was recruiting Tyler Wideman hard (he eventually went to Butler) and we had a chance to chat often at LC's practices. He's a quality guy and an excellent basketball coach. (He's had his way with Indiana too for years. I've noticed.)
I'm looking forward to spending time with both guys.
So we're off and running. We're still making some improvements, but we're ready to go. Here's what I want you to do today:
- Hit the follow button here on the site, and add your name and email address so you can join our Purdue community and comment on stories and share your thoughts on our community page. That's the best interaction.
- Follow our "Purdue Boilermakers on Sports Illustrated'' Facebook page. CLICK HERE TO DO THAT
- Follow my reporter Brady Extin on Twitter. CLICK HERE TO DO THAT.
- Comment and share our stories when you read something you like.
- Say hello whenever you see me around campus!
Now lets go have some fun! And I'll see you soon.