Column: How MaxPreps changed the high school sports landscape launched its website 20 years ago. launched its website 20 years ago.

All together, let’s sing the birthday song:

"Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear MaxPreps …"

Yes, this is MaxPreps' 20th year of existence, and few organizations have been more important in helping bring high school sports into the digital era.

You’ll have to remember what it was like before MaxPreps was created by California-based Andy Beal in 2002 in the Sacramento area.

Rosters, schedules and scores were distributed or confirmed sometimes by Pony Express. Seriously, the information was collected by phone calls or by begging coaches and freelancers to report scores to newspapers. Going to a City Section football game, reporters would ask players one by one on the sideline to state their name because rosters or programs were rarely supplied.

MaxPreps’ idea of a one-stop place to report scores, display rosters, statistics and schedules took years to accomplish because it relied on schools volunteering their time and effort to input the information. Some sections asked and prodded coaches to help. It was slow but steady improvement, and even today there are holdouts for statistics and rosters in certain sports.

MaxPreps was eventually purchased by the owners of CBS Sports Digital in 2007 and now fits in with the favorite word of executives — synergy — because CBS also acquired the recruiting service 247Sports in 2015. It's active in all 50 states.

In California, there’s a little rivalry going. In 2019, the relatively new Scorebook Live outbid MaxPreps to be the exclusive digital provider of the California Interscholastic Federation, the state's governing body for high school sports. There was a mini-rebellion among schools that wanted to continue using MaxPreps and not switch to Scorebook Live, which had told the CIF that it would develop a live scoring platform so fans could receive scores continuously from a game.

Scorebook Live, which has since become SB Live Sports, learned the process to gain loyalty and volunteers is painfully slow. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, so the transition did not go well.

MaxPreps was welcomed back a year later with a new deal. It now shares all information inputted to the CIF home website (scores and schedules) that automatically goes to both MaxPreps and SB Live. Interestingly, SB Live appears to have switched strategies to become more focused on written, social media and recruiting content than scores and hired away both the photo editor and top California staff writer from MaxPreps to help its cause.

The CIF sponsorship contracts with MaxPreps and SB Live expire in 2023, so what happens next is anyone’s guess, but the lesson learned from the last time is that schools loudly made it clear they don’t want to lose MaxPreps. If both are happy with the current arrangement of sharing information, then the CIF would certainly be happy too. But the CIF will first say: "Show me the money!"

MaxPreps has proved to be a valuable archive for former high school athletes wanting to go back in time to show their children and grandchildren what they did in high school. Its records go back to 2004, which allows many to see who was on a team or how many yards rushing someone had, if a school inputted the information.

MaxPreps has never been bigger or more profitable. Its rankings, photos and national coverage continue to expand. The people who run it know that the bread and butter of a successful digital company involves building the trust and support of the local clientele. MaxPreps is only as successful as the volunteers at thousands of schools around the country.

The CIF still wants live scoring to become part of the digital environment.

Will it be the MaxPreps platform or SB Live that delivers?

"We would all like to get to the point live scoring would become the norm," said CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti. "I think we will get there."

Let's hope it happens over the next 20 years. Happy birthday to MaxPreps. And many more.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.