Idle coach starts something big.

In the summer of 1997, Washington County High School decided that it wanted to integrate computers into more of it classes. "I was just learning how to use the internet," says Matt Hollis, a former weight training teacher and football coach at WACO.

At about the same time, a computer programmer named Jack Keith was starting a website for fans of high school athletics.

The site was the Georgia Varsity Sports Vent. It contained a football schedule for every high school in the state and a message board for fans everywhere to vent as to why their team was the Peach State's best.

When it came time for Hollis to learn to use the computer, he decided he could learn fastest if he found something on it that interested him.

"I searched ‘high school sports' and just stumbled upon a link for GAVSV," says Hollis. "I found the message board by fluke; I didn't even know what it was."

When Hollis found it, there were only two messages posted.

"One was from Jack – explaining what the site was – and one from a ‘person from Texas' (a man the coach later found to be Keith) who was talking smack about how Texas football was so much better than Georgia football."

Others saw the message that Hollis was viewing and encouraged him to respond.

"I can remember my boss, [Washington head football coach and athletics director] Rick Tomberlin, saying, ‘Hey! Talk some smack back to that guy!'"

"From there it just kind of spread," says Hollis.

"Messages began appearing about the Washington County football team," says Keith, a computer programmer from Tifton. "Soon messages against Washington County appeared from their opponents and I figured a word of mouth campaign was in place in the Sandersville area."

Keith then decided to get even more publicity for his site. He sent a press release to newspapers all over Georgia. Soon after, the Augusta Chronicle and Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran articles reviewing the site.

"Many fans from around the state found the site from those two newspapers and began posting on the message board," says Keith.

In August of 1998, just a little over a year after its inception, GAVSV was attracting 100,000 visitors per day. Another 15 months went by, and the website was up to 6,000,000 hits per day, double the amount of its next closest competitor on the Rivals.com network.

"It just kind of bloomed," says Hollis, who accredits most of the site's success to rivalries that were played out on the message board. "It just evolved because of how passionate people were about their high schools and their programs."

"GAVSV has grown like a rolling snowball," says Keith. "And I credit Coach Hollis with being the person who started the ball rolling."

Following suit with GAVSV, Hollis' coaching career has since evolved as well. In 2002, he accepted the vacant head football coaching job coach at Forsyth Central High School in Cumming.


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