Bears

High school streaming website a major success

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High school streaming website a major success

The numbers are staggering. Is this how Ray Kroc, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg got started? Chicago-based HighSchoolCube.com is to high school sports what McDonald's is to hamburgers, Apple to the personal computer, Microsoft to computer software and Facebook to social networking.
Founded in January 2011 by two Texas entrepreneurs who wanted to own their own company and were passionate about high school space, HighSchoolCube.com provides a streaming platform for high schools to broadcast their live events -- sports, band, concerts, plays, graduation.
"It is an educational place for high schools to run their own programs," said Kevin Doyle, one of the co-founders. "It creates exposure for students and athletes and teams and the school. It's a wonderful opportunity for kids to get involved with the new media by learning how to produce an event. And it is a revenue opportunity for schools to make money."
HighSchoolCube.com began to make a name for itself in December 2011 when it used four cameras to cover 117 games at the Proviso West, Pontiac, Rich South and Hinsdale South holiday basketball tournaments. The broadcasts attracted over 3,000 views for Proviso West and Pontiac.
That was only the beginning.
Last month, HighSchoolCube.com covered seven holiday tournaments.
In December 2011, it attracted 80,000 visits to its website. Last month, the number sky-rocketed to 400,000.
In 2011, Doyle and co-founder Larry Cotter reached out to 15 high schools in the Chicago and Austin, Texas, areas. They started with 30 schools. Now they have signed up 1,261.
In the Chicago area, they had hoped to sign up 50 high schools in 2012-13. To date, they have signed up over 100. Their goal is to reach 300 schools.
They were self-funding until May 2012. Since then, they have attracted national advertising from the likes of Nike and Dodge Dart and many local advertisers representing local businesses.
At first, it was a hobby. Now Doyle and Cotter have a staff of 15 full-time employees and a crew of 75 different contractors, including announcers, cameramen and other free-lancers.
And they are expanding beyond Chicago and Austin. They are into Northwest Indiana and recently opened markets in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Des Moines, Iowa.
"We're trying to build from the Midwest out," Doyle said. "We take 15 calls a week from high schools from all over the country that are interested in live streaming their events.
"The brand is building. Are we surprised? We're excited about it. People are talking about it. Before, nobody knew what I did. Now people talk about HighSchoolCube.com. There is so much more awareness about it. People care about it and and want to talk about it, how we have been able to build our brand through the schools themselves."
HighSchoolCube.com covers girls basketball, too. On Jan. 18-19 and 21, all 16 games of the 23rd annual McDonald's Shootout will be live streamed from Willowbrook High School in Villa Park. The final game will pit defending Class 3A champion Montini against defending Class 4A champion Whitney Young.
"I have been approached before about live streaming some of the McDonald's games but when we were approached by HighSchoolCube I knew this was the right time and organization to do it," said tournament founder and director Jim O'Boye. "In just a couple of years they have become the talk of area high schools for streaming quality and professionalism. Their entire concept is very student friendly and kids are watching their games over and over, sitting with their friends in front of a computer."
Doyle grew up in La Grange and attended Benet Academy in Lisle. He played basketball and graduated in 1985. After graduating from Notre Dame in 1989, he worked for 10 years at the Chicago Tribune in the circulation and advertising departments.
After a brief stop at an Internet company, he joined Tribune-owned Apartments.com, a national site to look for apartments, where he was vice-president of sales for five years and general manager for six years. Then Doyle and Cotter got together when Apartments.com acquired one of Cotter's companies.
"I wanted to own my own company," Doyle said. "I have a passion for high school space. I wanted to get into business in an area I was passionate about. If I was going to put in 60 hours a week, I wanted to do it in an area I love. So I started to look at trends."
Cotter had been involved with Sandbox.com, an online fantasy sports company that had been sold to NBC Universal. All of his employees lived and breathed fantasy sports. It was a natural connection.
"He looked at high school space in the same vein as I did," Doyle said. "We wanted people who were moving toward video, consuming more and more video. We wanted to build a product that feature video with a social component."
HighSchoolCube.com was born. "It provides a three-dimensional view of what goes on at a high school with live and uploaded video content. Our first goal was: Can we work with schools and stream events? Then we sat back. Will people watch it? We were blown away by how many people watched," Doyle said.
Now HighSchoolCube.com is partnered with the Chicago Sun-Times, which has purchased a minority ownership, and has established offices on the tenth floor of the Sun-Times building on Orleans St., across the street from the Merchandise Mart.
Tim Knight, publisher and CEO of Wrapports who runs Sun-Times media, and Doyle once worked together at the Tribune. Knight caught wind of what Doyle and Cotter were doing and felt it was a good fit for what the Sun-Times is trying to do to reach local subscribers, viewers and advertisers.
"We're trying to get as much exposure as possible," Doyle said. "We are sharing content with anyone who can give us exposure. Our goal? We want to build a national brand. We want to be the place for people to go to watch live high school events."
In the short term, the company has placed a heavy emphasis on the Chicago area. In the next three to five years, HighSchoolCube.com hopes to sign up over 300 schools in the city and suburbs and have the capacity to live stream every high school event from football to basketball to wrestling to spring band concert to graduation.
"We want to be the place that people want to use to get exposure," Doyle said. "The toughest thing is to get somebody to do it."
It isn't as difficult as it appears. To stream live, you need a camera, computer, Internet connection and play-by-play announcer. But technology is changing faster than a read option offense. In a few weeks, a process will be launched so people can live stream on their iPads.
"Half of our broadcasters aspire to be the next Bob Costas. Others do it as a hobby or a passion. Some have the same passion as a high school referee," Doyle said. "They find us or we find them. We provide training for producers and we monitor all of our broadcasts for quality.
"We feel we have made inroads in Chicago and other markets. We will continue to execute. We want to sign up more schools in Chicago and add territory managers to look for more schools in other areas and expand into more markets between now and the end of the school year.
"There is a blueprint to sign up schools to use our platform and live stream our events and to sign local, regional and national advertising. We want to do as many high school events as possible. And advertising dollars are following. If you have enough content and people are watching it, advertisers will get a return on their investment."

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”

89 Days to Kickoff: St. Charles East

89 Days to Kickoff: St. Charles East

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: St. Charles East

Head coach: Bryce Farquhar

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (4-2 Upstate 8 River Conference), St. Charles East made the 2017 IHSA state Class 8A playoff field. The Saints defeated Oswego East then lost to eventual 8A state champion Lincoln-Way East in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Rock Island

Aug. 31 @ Carmel

Sept. 7 vs Glenbard North

Sept. 14 @ Wheaton South

Sept. 21 vs Geneva

Sept. 28 @ St. Charles North

Oct. 5 vs Batavia

Oct. 12 @ Wheaton North

Oct. 19 vs Lake Park

[MORE: 90 Days to Kickoff - Warren]

Biggest storyline: The Saints have had impressive campaigns the last two seasons. Can they continue to prosper in the newly-formed DuKane Conference?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Justin Jett and OL Dylan Barrett

Biggest holes to fill: The Saints will look to reload at a few key spots including at quarterback, as Clayton Isbell has moved on to Illinois State. Replacing RB/LB Nick Garlisch (South Dakota St.) will be key as well.

EDGY's Early Take: Coach Bryce Farquhar's Saints have produced playoff seasons in back-to-back years. Now, their regular season ramps up a bit with the newly-formed DuKane Conference. The new league features some former Upstate Eight conference foes in St. Charles North, Batavia and Geneva, plus former DuPage Valley members Wheaton Warrenville South, Wheaton North, Glenbard North and Lake Park. Look for the Saints to rely on some experience up front. Three starters are back on the offensive line, including junior OG Dylan Barrett. He has already added several FBS level scholarship offers.