John Harrell still enjoys running site for high school sports junkies | Lindskog
Whenever I sneak a peek at a coach’s computer screen while we're meeting for an interview in his or her office, or when I scoot past another media member alongside press row, is open.
It’s the unofficial encyclopedia for Indiana high school football and basketball. The bible for junkies needing their fix of up-to-date standings, schedules and predictions. The home of past years’ results, postseason titles, career scoring leaders, school colors and even gym capacity.
Harrell, 72, is the one-man band behind the operation, and he does it for the entire state — that’s 321 football teams plus over 800 boys and girls basketball squads. Every score, all in one place, because thousands of Hoosiers are out there on any given night in-season, typing JohnHarrell.net into their cell phone, tablet or computer browsers.
Next school year will mark be the 18th since launching in December 2000. Few current students were alive back then, but he's still having fun running it.
“It keeps me going,” Harrell said. “I’m not just lagging around and letting my life drag by – it gets me up in the morning and keeps me going throughout the day.”
Harrell does, in fact, step away from his computer during the spring and summer. A retired newspaperman who worked the Bloomington Herald-Times sports desk for 40 years, Harrell spends more time with his wife, Martha, or plays a round of golf instead of obsessing over high school sports facts.
Of course, while he was in Canada visiting his daughter earlier this week, he logged in to input a schedule and update a coaching change. The brainchild remains a hobby, he says, but it’s a lot of work. While Google Ad revenue allows the site to pay for itself, he doesn't make much money from it.
Come Aug. 17 for Week 1 of high school football, he’ll sequester himself in his home office every Friday evening for roughly seven months. He basically only takes Sundays and holidays off during basketball season.
“I just love doing it,” Harrell said. “I’ve gotten a lot of praise and publicity for it, and I don’t know if that pushes me. A lot of people have helped me in the past, so I’m giving back to sportswriters and broadcasters.”
, which he uses to gather “95 percent” of final scores and has been an invaluable resource if he can’t find a one. If he asks, someone answers.
“When Twitter started, that changed everything,” he said. “It’s a great source and I probably couldn’t live without it.
“I also have to watch myself so I don’t say something that’ll embarrass me later on. When you tweet something out, you really don’t realize there are some 10,000-plus people out there looking for it.”
It’s a different era than when he began archiving in 1980. He partnered with Bloomington resident Jeff Sagarin, a numbers guru wanted to apply his rating system to Indiana high school sports. Harrell provided the results for the formula.
Back then, the main way to retrieve scores was by calling around or waiting for the Associated Press send them. In the ‘90s, nearly a decade into his efforts, he started a message board to crowdsource scores, too.
He didn’t start his website until he already had 20 years of archived information. Today, on a good night during basketball season, traffic to his site reaches six figures. An average night is still over 10,000 unique visitors.
“When the internet came along, I thought, why not put it out there?” Harrell said. “I thought about it in the early ‘90s, but I didn’t know how to get it out there to sports writers. Email wasn’t widely used.”
People have begged him to create something similar with baseball, softball and volleyball. He already has established a model that has been more or less unrivaled, at least with a statewide scope.
“Volleyball would be the easiest because there aren’t postponements, but with the other two, I’d be pulling my hair out just trying to get those,” Harrell said. Remember, he spent decades tracking down box scores to run in the next day's newspaper.
He’s a household name if you care about high school football or basketball. Except the only game he’s attended in recent memory was when his alma mater Huntington High honored him in 2016 before his induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
To no surprise, he plugged into school internet to update his site remotely. He has no plans to step aside and pass the site along to his son or one of eight grandsons anytime soon.
“As long as I’m able to keep going, I will ‘til I drop," Harrell said.
He’s having too much fun keeping it going in retirement – and he’s humbled by how many people depend on its content.
“I’m like everyone else,” Harrell said. “I can’t wait for the first game.”
Contact Chad Lindskog on Twitter @chadlindskog or email@example.com