In April 1996, Vanderbilt fan and Nashville native Don Yates, a newcomer to the Internet, began spending hours scouring the web for Vanderbilt sports information, but finding little. The official athletic site did exist at the time but he hadn't located it. "I found a great Wake Forest site and thought, if Wake Forest fans can have a cool site like this, Vandy fans should too," said Yates.
Yates founded VandyMania on May 5, 1996. He utilized his personal home page on the Prodigy network to launch the site. At the time Prodigy granted users web space as part of their ISP user contracts.
"I didn't know HTML. I just kind of learned as I went along. The original page design was pretty rudimentary", said Yates.
In 1996 many users were discovering the Internet for the first time. Most people who went online to discuss sports did it via Prodigy, America Online, or CompuServe, services which were not actually on the web. Each had its unique formats and message boards. Later these services offered gateways to the web.
The original VandyMania consisted of a links page and a "manually operated" message board. Yates would paste the E-mail messages into HTML format and place "reply" links beside the messages. Each day Yates checked his E-mail and manually pasted the new messages and replies into the message board.
For Yates, the site was an enjoyable part-time hobby. He gave little regard to the volume of traffic the site was receiving. A few months later he installed a counter. "I was shocked to discover that his site was receiving far more visitors than the ones who posted on the board," said Yates. Within a few months the board was getting ten to fifteen new posts, and scores of visitors each day.
Managing the message board grew to be a laborious task because of the increase in posters. Yates had seen automated boards on the web and researched ways to provide one for VandyMania. Unable to install one on his Prodigy site because of technical limitations, Yates began contacting web-hosting providers. Eventually he settled on ZNS of Cleveland, Ohio, which agreed to assist in the installation of an automated message board and registration of the domain name "VandyMania.com".
In January 1997, VandyMania moved from Yates' personal homepage on Prodigy to the ZNS server and became accessible at www.VandyMania.com. As web traffic increased, word spread among fans about VandyMania. The site had over 3 million page views in 1997.
While VandyMania thrived, other Vandy sports-related sites such as the official athletics site and CommodoreReport.com appeared and also saw significant growth. In January 1999, VandyMania joined forces with The Commodore Report on the Rivals.com network of sports sites. The marriage was short-lived, however, as The Commodore Report ceased operations several months later and Rivals.com disintegrated in April 2001, due to a huge drop in Internet advertising rates.
Despite the demise of Rivals and The Commodore Report, VandyMania survived. Shortly after the Rivals shutdown VandyMania was back in operation on its own server. In August 2001, VandyMania began offering a premium Vanderbilt sports service, offering inside news, commentary, recruiting information, and premium message boards for hard-core fans. The service was an instant hit and several hundred subscribed.
In November 2001, the newly formed TheInsiders.com network of sites (which included many of the best sites from the old Rivals.com) invited VandyMania to join its team. VandyMania agreed, and continues to offer Vanderbilt sports news, interviews, and information in collaboration with TheInsiders.com network.
In early 2002, Yahoo! joined forces with TheInsiders.com and VandyMania to offer Vanderbilt sports news on the world's largest web site.
Since the move to TheInsiders, VandyMania traffic has reached an all-time high. Hundreds of Vanderbilt fans have subscribed to the VandyMania premium service and several hundred Vanderbilt sports stories, both free and premium, have been published. In the six months since the merge with TheInsiders, over 10,000 messages have been posted on the VandyMania message boards.
"I'm very excited about the future of VandyMania," said Yates. "We are always working to improve the site. I never dreamed six years ago that the site would have taken off like it has. It's been thrilling to be a part of the Internet explosion.
"I appreciate all that have helped support and run the site including my wife Karen and many others."Take a look at a reproduction of the original site at the below link: