VarsityOnline.com is back online.
VOL may have been the premier Web site that fans of Minnesota high school sports could dial up for rosters, schedules, scores and highlights in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Then, like many dot.com companies, VOL vanished shortly after 9/11 as the economy crumbled.
Many people agreed the need for such an information source remained. Ken Lien, a 1968 Pine River High School and 1971 Central Lakes College graduate, hopes that's correct.
Lien resurrected VOL in late March, hoping to operate it profitably so it can remain viable.
"(VOL) tried to exist by selling advertising on the Web," Lien said Tuesday by phone from the Twin Cities. "That's a very difficult situation, a very tough market."
Lien plans to use his 27-year background in sales and marketing to make VOL viable and is taking a different approach to enable that to occur.
VOL's mission this time around is to help schools raise funds. It will operate on a subscription-only basis, with an annual subscription fee of $20.
Half of the fee will be returned to the school of the subscriber's choice or to the sport at a particular school of the subscriber's choice.
Subscribers will have access to schools in Minnesota and throughout the country.
Media members, along with coaches and athletic directors, will continue to be able to access the site for free.
Lien, working with two other VOL dealers, is in the process of sending a mailing to coaches, making them aware of the revived service and how it can promote their program.
"All the schools I've sat down with say it's a no-brainer, that $20 is nothing," Lien said. "Schools will have the ability to raise some money. I haven't talked to any school yet that doesn't need to raise money."
VOL will continue to rely on Volunteer Sports Reporters to gather its information. One volunteer reporter per sport, usually a student manager, coach or parent, will be given an access code to post information.
"I firmly believe this has great potential," Lien said. "There's an absolute need and everyone liked VOL. Everybody I've talked has said, 'We're glad you're back.'
"It serves a definite purpose. Kids can even go on there, do their own Web site and college coaches can see that, if (students) want to promote themselves. There will be a nominal fee for doing that, but it's available for them to utilize."
VOL will also include leader boards, rankings and top 10 lists.
"We're labeling VOL as the total high school experience," Lien said. "That's kind of our phraseology."
Lien is one of the state's most recognizable basketball figures. He has been director of the Mr. Basketball award for almost 30 years and chairs the Miss Basketball committee.
He also directs and coaches Minnesota Select, an all-star basketball program that features players from across the state.
Lien will coach in the River City Classic in Omaha. Neb., this weekend, followed by the Mr. Basketball Invitational in Kearney, Neb., the Kentucky HoopFest in Louisville and the Adidas Big Time tournament in Las Vegas.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for senior-to-be players as they get excellent exposure to college coaches from all over the country," Lien said of Minnesota Select. "My Select Gold team was 34-7 last summer, winning several tournaments, and was runner-up in the prestigious Kentucky HoopFest. That was the best any team from Minnesota has ever finished."
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