Bank Shot

Internet hoops junkies fuel Shawn Siegel's Jerry Maguire-like dreams

While sites like Rivals and Scout.com devote significant bandwidth to high school recruiting, team-specific editorial content and community building (i.e., message boards), collegehoopsnet.com's bread and butter is an editorial mix of provocative armchair quarterbacking and NBA draft forecasting, the latter of which is a personal specialty of Siegel's that Adams finds slightly confounding.

"You don't see that link as often as you see the high school-to-college link," says Adams. "Most avid college sports fans connect the NBA with the dilution of the college product."

Siegel also bucks common wisdom by devoting as little space as possible to media darlings like Duke and the University of North Carolina, instead focusing on dogged coverage of mid-major programs like Western Michigan, the Ivy League and the hoops nexus of Cincinnati, recently named America's best college basketball city by The Sporting News.

At 23, Shawn Siegel is already running the court.
Jennifer Silverberg
At 23, Shawn Siegel is already running the court.
At 23, Shawn Siegel is already running the court.
Jennifer Silverberg
At 23, Shawn Siegel is already running the court.

"We're not that interested in the bigger guys," says Siegel, "but you have to write about them."

Some of collegehoops.net's more prolific correspondents don't seem to mind that they write for free, instead expressing gratitude to Siegel for providing them with a creative outlet and heightened exposure in an increasingly crowded and democratic electronic journalism landscape.

"Writing about office parks and highway extensions bored me," says Bob Kintner, a onetime contributor to the Cincinnati Business Courier who covers all of Ohio for Siegel from his apartment in Queen City's idyllic Hyde Park neighborhood. "Occasionally, I'll do something exclusively for Shawn, but I send most of my stuff out to about nine Web sites besides Shawn's. My ultimate goal is to be read by as many people as possible, so that when I write books, people will remember me and buy them." (Kintner, who goes by the Web handle "Cigar Boy," is currently working on a book about college arenas.)

Then there are contributors like Dan Curry, a North Hollywood, California, firefighter who, while pining for a venue to write about West Coast hoops, stumbled upon Siegel's site. In the course of their e-mail correspondence, Curry revealed that he had developed a computerized formula for predicting not only the winners of individual games, but also teams' records over the course of an entire season. Instantly sold on the concept, Siegel dubbed this mechanism -- which places statistical priority on strength of schedule and margin of victory -- the DCI (for "Dan Curry Index"), and the firefighter has been calling his shots on collegehoopsnet.com ever since.

With his bank statements as his witness, Siegel has learned that such spates of serendipity create as viable a blueprint as any for entrepreneurial success in the wide world of sports' Internet.

"Except for major media companies, that's how it works," says Scout.com's Nelson. "Guys just start doing something because they're passionate about it, and they turn it into a little business."

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