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To those who love high school sports, all-star games, national rankings, All-American teams, recruiting lists and websites dedicated to high school sports are all part of enjoying the prep sports experience.
But all of those components that make up what we love about high school sports had to start somewhere. The following list takes a look at the "pioneers" of the high school sports media experience. They were the first to look at high school sports in a different way, come up with a unique idea and then make prep sports better as a result. And if they weren't the first, then they were the ones who did it best.
This list is not dedicated to the multitude of great high school sports journalists who bring you the news about your favorite teams every day. Prep sports writers like Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times
, Tim Stevens of the Raleigh News & Observer
and Neil Kerr of the Syracuse Sports Standard
are legends in their own right, but they belong on a different list for a different day.25 High School Sports Media Pioneers
John "Mose" Simms
All-American teams, all-star games
Simms was a little bit of everything — a newspaper publisher, a restaurant owner, an oil promoter and a football coach. But more than anything, Simms organized and promoted all-star football games. While in Oklahoma in the late 1940s, Simms organized the "Wigwam Wiseman" society, which was a group of businessmen who helped fund his all-star game ventures.
In 1947, Simms organized the first national all-star football game and selected four squads of 11 players each. These players were then recognized as "Wigwam Wiseman All-Americans" and their bios and pictures were published in The Sporting News. Simms' All-American team and all-star game were the first of their kind and he promoted them until his death in 1962.Art Johlfs
National high school football rankings
A journalist, high school principal, basketball referee, coach and later real estate salesman, Johlfs wore many hats in his career, but his passion was always high school sports, particularly ranking the top teams in the country. Some websites list Johlfs as beginning his national football rankings as early as 1927, however archival newspaper research indicates that Johlfs began doing national football rankings in 1959 when he began operating as the "National Sports News Service" in Minnesota.
Johlfs did national football rankings only at the end of the season and he did so until he retired in 1978. He also retroactively selected mythical football champions back to 1927. Johlfs also did national rankings for boys basketball, girls basketball and ice hockey.
National record book
When the National Federation of High Schools decided to put together a national record book, the person they asked to help with the project was already considered the nation's authority on high school sports records. Huff had been compiling national sports records since his high school days in the early 1960s and continued to put together national records during his time as a sports editor in West Virginia.
Huff also became a contributing editor with Street & Smith's preseason football magazine, selecting the preseason All-American teams. Huff later published his own national football and basketball record books, in conjunction with Mark Tennis, in 2001. Huff also ran the National Prep Poll for football and was part of ESPN's coverage of high school sports.Barry Sollenberger
Preseason/national high school magazines
Sollenberger was many things — a sports historian, athlete, writer and most importantly a fan. He began producing preseason football magazines in 1971 in Arizona and later became the editor of the Joe Namath's National Prep Sports Magazine. He produced the Arizona magazines, along with friend and business partner David Kukulski, for nearly 35 years.
Sollenberger took over the job of doing national rankings for the National Sports News Service from Johlfs in the late 1970s before later turning the duties over to Doug Huff. He also became the media director for the Arizona Interscholastic Association and compiled all of the state sports records for the organization. Sollenberger was also the first to compile a national high school baseball record book. He passed away on his 60th birthday in 2005.Dave Krider
Weekly national rankings
Starting as the sports editor at the La Porte Herald Argus, Krider began to write on a national level when he joined Letterman, a national high school sports magazine, in the early 1970s. He also began writing columns for Basketball Weekly and Basketball Times and he provided prep basketball material for Street & Smith magazine for 21 years.
In 1982, Krider originated the weekly football and basketball rankings for a new national daily newspaper, USA Today. He was the first to do national rankings on a weekly basis and he held that position for 18 years. He also worked for Sports Illustrated and MaxPreps during his career.Haskell Cohen
Parade All-American selection
Cohen may best be known as the originator of the NBA All-Star Game. As the league's publicity director in 1951, Cohen came up with the idea based on Major League Baseball's all-star game. However Cohen's contribution to prep sports comes as editor of the Parade All-America teams since their inception.
He originated the basketball All-America team in 1957 and the football All-America team in 1963. He selected both teams for over 40 years, later adding girls basketball and boys and girls soccer.Andy Beal
Digital high school sports coverage
As President of Waveshift, a Sacramento area software maker, Beal made the bold decision in 2003 to use the recently acquired Sports Huddle software to cover high school sports. The original idea was to sell the software to newspapers, according to a story in The Union in 2004, but when that didn't pan out, Beal decided to use the software himself to cover high school sports — first in California in 2003 and then across the country in 2004.
The result was MaxPreps, the first website to cover high school sports on a national level. In the 17 years since MaxPreps began, the site (subsequently purchased in 2007 by CBS) has become the go-to source for high school sports news, stats, rosters, standings and video.
National stat leaders
A railroad office worker in Johnstown, Pa., and later a sports columnist, Seman first proposed a national record book and the idea of state high school sports historians back in 1949. At the time, Seman searched through hundreds of newspapers on a regular basis to come up with national scoring leaders and national basketball records. His lists of national scoring leaders and records were published in newspapers across the country for over 25 years.
According to an article in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat in 2007, Seman was hoping to write a book about all of the research he had done over the years, but the Johnstown flood in 1977 inundated his cellar and ruined the stacks of newspapers and research he had collected over the previous 30 years.Dave Campbell
Statewide preseason football publication
The sports editor at the Waco Tribune Herald in 1960, Campbell grew dissatisfied with the incorrect information he was finding about Texas college teams in national publications, according to a story about Campbell on MaxPreps. So Campbell decided to do something about it.
He began his own preview magazine that very year, featuring professional, college and high school teams in Texas. The publication, which has gone through several ownership changes, is now in its 60th season and Campbell continues to be a part of the process. Dave Campbell's Texas Football is considered the "Bible of Texas Football" and has produced a radio program, a TV show, a website and an all-star football game.
Joe Lee Smith
State football historian
High school football is king in the state of Texas and Joe Lee Smith has been there to chronicle the sport for over 60 years. He served as sports editor for several newspapers in the early 1960s but spent most of his career as the sports information director for Lamar University. Dating all the way back to his high school days, Smith has researched Texas football.
On his Texas High School Football History website, he has team, coach and individual records as well as playoff scores encompassing the entire history of UIL football. He also has in his collection every score of every UIL game ever played in the state of Texas.Mark Tennis/Nelson Tennis
Weekly newsletter/record book and almanac
Nelson Tennis and nephew Mark Tennis, who operate under the name Cal-Hi Sports, are the authorities on California high school sports. Nelson, who passed away in 2004, began researching California high school sports in the early 1970s and developed his first state football rankings in 1975. Nelson and Mark later developed the state's first record book along with the selection of all-state teams and retroactive selections of players, coaches and teams of the year for every sport fielded in the state.
The record book and almanac is known for being thoroughly researched and content-rich with in-depth lists and unique statistical categories. Mark began a weekly newsletter, the first in the state of its kind, while still in college in the early 1980s. The newsletter later became a website that still covers California sports to this day. Mark also worked with Student Sports and ESPN, covering sports on a national level while producing the Fab 50 rankings for football and basketball. Paul Luchter
Sports researcher extraordinaire
If you are looking for something to do while sheltering in place, check out Luchter's website Luckyshow.org. Luchter's lists are interesting, obscure, fascinating and unique, all at the same time. Looking for anyone who has scored more than 47 points in a high school basketball game? Luchter has it. Girls who have kicked a field goal in a football game? He has it. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
He has research on baseball, basketball, football, and hockey; amateur, prep, semi-pro and professional. His research covers the United States and seemingly every nation that plays sports. His research is thorough, dating back to the 19th century and as recently as the 2020 basketball season. His website and work is an incredible reference tool for sportswriters.A.G. Spalding
First national high school sports magazine
Spalding was a Hall of Fame pitcher for the White Sox at the end of the 19th century and he was also a team executive and sporting goods store owner. It was the latter profession where Spalding made his mark on high school sports. As a promotional tool to sell sporting goods, Spalding put together a baseball rule book that he distributed across the country. He later put together a football rule book.
As part of the football rule book, Spalding featured college teams, but he also included team photos of championship high school teams, all-state teams and scores for the top prep teams in the country. In effect, the "Spalding guide" was the first national high school sports magazine. Spalding first began distributing the football guide in 1891 and discontinued the process in the early 1940s.John "Red" Davis
Longest running all-star team
A sports editor at the Lake City newspaper and later at the Orlando Sentinel in Florida, Davis began selecting an "All-Southern" football all-star team in 1920. The team consisted of four or five of the best players from each of 11 Southern states. Davis was the head of the selection process for 26 years before stepping down in 1945.
A longtime baseball umpire, Davis also served as a national delegate from Florida for the Democratic convention in 1936. The All-Southern Football Team was one of the longest-running all-star teams, as it was chosen for 91 seasons before the final selection in 2010.Herman Masin
High school sports coaching magazine
The longest tenured editor of any magazine in U.S. history, Masin oversaw the production of Scholastic Coach magazine for 72 years, starting in 1936 until his retirement in 2008. He died in 2010 at the age of 96. Scholastic Coach was dedicated to teaching fundamentals of sports along with safety and teamwork.
The magazine also produced articles by coaches, highlighting their best plays along with their game and practice strategies. Scholastic Coach also picked a football, basketball and track and field All-America team starting in the early 1950s and lasting for nearly 40 years.Al Abrams/Sonny Vacarro
Longest running national all-star game
Prior to the McDonald's All-American Basketball Game, there was the Dapper Dan Classic. Originated in 1965 by sports enthusiast (and future Nike marketing executive) Sonny Vacarro and his partner Pat Decisare, the all-star game got its name from Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports editor Al Abrams, who had formed the Dapper Dan Charities back in 1936 as an offspring from one of his sports columns.
The charity funded the Dapper Dan Classic basketball all-star game (and later the Dapper Dan Classic all-star wrestling tournament). The game was played in Pittsburgh for nearly 30 years until Nike and Dapper Dan discontinued their sponsorship. Renamed the Roundball Classic, the 43rd and last all-star game was played in 2007.Bill Schroeder
A reporter with the Los Angeles Times in the 1930s, Schroeder became interested in starting a sports foundation for the preservation of sports history. With the help of philanthropist Paul Helms, an executive in the baking industry, Schroeder originated the Helms Foundation. Along with selecting All-American teams and national champions in college sports, Schroeder also commissioned researchers to retroactively select national champions back to the 19th century. The Helms Foundation also began a Hall of Fame for both college football and basketball.
Schroeder's contribution to high school sports came in the selection of all-star teams in the Southern Section and Los Angeles City Section for football and basketball starting in 1936. Both CIF sections continue to select all-section teams to this day. The Helms Foundation also inspired the formation of the Breitbard Foundation, according to Dan Fulop and his book "Bob Breitbard: San Diego's Sports Keeper," which celebrates high school sports in the San Diego Section through the selection of all-section teams and a Hall of Fame.Chuck Taylor
Basketball yearbook, national all-star game
While Taylor is better known for the Converse shoe that bears his name, he was also a tremendous promoter of the Converse brand and he created two ground-breaking high school sports-related products to promote that brand. The first was the yearly Converse basketball yearbook, which he began in 1929. The yearbook was a tool to sell shoes, but it also featured all-star teams from every state and information from the previous high school basketball season.
In 1949, Taylor became part of a national high school all-star basketball game, which was held in Murray, Ky. At the conclusion of the game, Taylor would pick a five-player All-America team and a "player of the game." The players were regarded as All-Americans (the first high school All-American team ever chosen) and the player of the game was the national MVP. The game was held from 1949 to 1956.Lanny Bryant
National high school wrestling publication
High school sports publications have often struggled to survive in the very competitive world of sports publications, but that hasn't been the case for Wrestling USA Magazine. Known as the "National Voice of Wrestling Since 1965," the magazine originated under the direction of high school wrestling coach Lanny Bryant.
Originally called Scholastic Wrestling News, the publication changed names in 1976 when Bryant took complete ownership of the product, according to the site's bio of the editor. Bryant stepped down from coaching in 1987 and became full-time editor. The magazine is in its 55th year of publication.Dennis Deninger
High school sports television show
A coordinating producer for SportsCenter on ESPN, Deninger originated Scholastic Sports America — a show dedicated to high school sports — in 1986. The only show of its kind on national television, Scholastic Sports America ran until 2001. Chris Fowler, the host of ESPN's College GameDay, was the original host of the show. Deninger worked for 25 years at ESPN, has gone on to write several books about sports and is currently a professor at Syracuse.Tom Lemming
Before there was Rivals, 247Sports, Scout or SuperPrep there was Tom Lemming. A former high school sports reporter, Lemming began scouting football prospects in 1979. Known for driving thousands of miles every season to see the prospects in person, Lemming also spent many hours reviewing film of players before coming out with his Prep Football Report magazine. Even 40 years later, Lemming is still scouting high school football players as part of his website. In the past, he has provided content to ESPN, USA Today, MaxPreps and CBS Sports.Henry Luce
Recognizing high school sports/athletes in national magazine
Luce is known best for launching Time
magazine at the age of 25 in 1923. However, he makes the list for his other contribution to journalism — Sports Illustrated
. First published in 1954, Sports Illustrated
did not begin to include high school stories on its pages until the 1960s, but it has regularly done so ever since. It included high school athletes as part of its "Faces in the Crowd" feature. It also put a high school athlete on its cover for the first time in 1966 when it featured Mr. Indiana Basketball Rick Mount. Luce was the editor-in-chief of the magazine from 1954 to 1964. While many of the magazine's articles about high school sports appeared in the magazine after Luce left the publication, it was Luce's vision that provided a platform for some of the best sports writing about high school sports.James O'Brien/Sam Andre
Preseason All-American lists
O'Brien spent many years as a sports editor in Pennsylvania, but his biggest contribution to prep sports is the 23 years he spent as the founding editor of the Street & Smith's
Basketball Yearbook. The yearbook began to publish yearly preseason lists of the top high school basketball players in the country. Sam Andre was the football editor at Street & Smith
starting in the early 1960s. Like O'Brien, he began publishing preseason lists of the top high school football players in the country. Among the prep sports writers O'Brien and Andre employed included Dave Krider and Doug Huff.Paul Nyberg
National High School Sports Publication
After earning his master's degree in journalism, Nyberg founded Letterman
, the first national magazine dedicated to covering high school sports in 1970. The magazine came out once a month and featured other writers on this list, including Krider and Huff. The magazine had season previews, national records lists and All-America teams. Nyberg ran the magazine for five years before selling the business and moving to the West Coast. He later took over the Los Altos Town Crier
south of San Francisco. In 2017, Nyberg and his wife were named the Los Altans of the Year.Frank Dickinson
Football rankings formulas
Sometimes known as "computer" rankings, formula football rankings have been around for nearly 100 years. The longest-running ranking system is the Dunkel Index, devised by Richard Dunkel in 1929. However, the first widely regarded football ranking system began in 1926 when University of Illinois economics professor Frank Dickinson developed his formula. The NCAA used the formula to award the Rissman Trophy to recognized college football's best team. Dickinson continued to produce his formula rankings until 1940 when he left Illinois to conduct research in medicine and economics, according to an article on the Illinois Liberal Arts & Sciences website. The Dickinson formula was used to rank college football teams, but later formula football rankings were used to rank high school teams, including the Dunkel Index in the 1950s (in Florida) and the Litkenhous Ratings in the 1930s (mostly in Kentucky).State Historians
High school sports historians have been an important part of prep sports coverage as they help put sports performances in perspective with their research and compilation of records for their respective states. Following is a list of state historians from across the country:
Alabama — David Parker and his group at Alabama High School Football History
Arizona — Barry Sollenberger
Alaska — Van Williams
Arkansas — Leland Barclay
California — Mark Tennis/Nelson Tennis; Bob Barnett, Bruce McIntosh, Rick Smith
Connecticut — John Ryan, Bo Kolinsky
Florida— Buddy Collings
Georgia — Todd Holcomb and the Georgia High School Football Historians
Illinois — Robert Pruter
Indiana — Gene Milner
Louisiana — Jerry Byrd
Maryland — Sheldon Shealer
Michigan — Dick Kishpaugh, Ron Pesch, Jay Soderberg
Minnesota — Matt Pederson
New Jersey — Chuck Langerman
New Mexico — Dan Ford
Ohio — Tim Hudak, James Baker
Oklahoma — Ray Soldan, Chris Wilfong
Oregon — Mal Van Meer, Doug Calvert, Tom Rohlffs, Larry Moulton
Pennsylvania — Ted Silary, Roger Saylor, Bill Gaffey, Hal Wilson
South Carolina — Dave Pickren
Texas — Bill McMurray, Joe Lee Smith, Bob Springer, Steven Floyd
Utah — George Felt
Virginia - Rick Baker, Joe Eitel
Washington — David Maley
West Virginia — Doug Huff
Wisconsin — Kevin Patrowsky
Wyoming — Patrick Schmiedt