Top independent sites join

SEATTLE – Don Yates knows a little bit about freedom. Fighting for it, after all, is his profession. Yates, you see, is in the U.S. Army, stationed at Ft. Lewis, about a half hour south of here in Washington state. Yates also has operated a Web site,, that has been free as a flock for four of its six years of existence. <br><br>

Freedom, as he defined it via his profession and his hobby, came under attack on Sept. 11, and Yates immediately pondered the short- and long-term consequences to his loved ones.

"If I got sent to Afghanistan," Yates recalled, "what would happen to VandyMania?"

Yates says he found his answer – and comfort – in

He is not alone. is part of a wave of previously fiercely independent sites that recently have joined

The most recent addition are, home of The Hive, a site that long has prided itself on being the premier independent site covering Georgia Tech sports, and, the top site covering University of Houston sports.

Among the other prominent – in some cases, legendary – independents who have joined are ACCBoards, one of the largest message board sports communities on the Web;, one of the oldest and most vibrant team sites on the Internet;, a top site covering Oregon State; DukeBasketballReport, the No. 1 site covering Duke basketball, and Gridscape, the No. 1 site covering Tennessee.

Other prominent additions are OUInsider, which covers Oklahoma and features renowned recruiting expert James Hale; Monter Draft and College Basketball News, featuring leading NBA draft analyst Chris Monter;, the top site covering Hawaiit; RaiderInsider, featuring coverage of Texas Tech by nationally recognized recruiting expert Max Emfinger and writer Thayer Evans;, a leading fan site covering North Carolina State, and, a leading site covering Maryland.'s deal with Yahoo! was influential in winning over many of the independents.

"I have come to believe that the Yahoo! deal will massively assist CyberBears' outreach to Cal fans wherever they are - which in our case means world-wide numbers that I believe way exceed any other University anywhere," said Chris Avery of CyberBears. "And I believe that the broadcast rights that Yahoo! now has - and will offer along with access to our sites - is just one step, the critical first one - towards a world where a broadband Internet will provide a primary access to audio/video connections to our Alma Mater. I think it essential for any website that considers itself to be 'the primary (even if non-official) Web site' for a University - as we do - to be a participant in this evolution."

Other considerations also were cited by the independents as reasons for joining the network. Some traded antiquated technology solutions for a scalable, stable platform that impressively, they say, sailed through the harsh demands of Signing Day 2002. Others were seeking to save the costs of site and message board hosting, software, tech support and other features that some say can run as much as $500 to $1,000 for large sites.

Making money was a distant goal. In fact,, for one, plans to use any revenue generated to pay longtime staff members who have been contributing content and services for free, finally cover costs of operating the site, and donate to Georgia Tech causes.

Vision and leadership of the network were listed as important reasons for trading independence.

"I remained independent for the first five years of running and when I sat down and saw what offered I decided to research with other publishers what their thoughts were from working with (network CEO) Jim Heckman," said Bryan Knoll, one of the first leading independent publishers to join "The consensus was that Jim followed through on what he said he would do. Based on that I decided to join and have been very impressed. There hasn't been a case yet where I was told something and it turned out to be untrue."

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