Back in 1997 Thanksgiving was just a huge food break between NCAA Tournament basketball games. Normally this holiday is associated with college football (and rightly so) but in Alaska people like to do things a little differently and no holiday is ever spared.
I had recently accepted a post at the Applied Science Lab at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Fred Pearce, director of the lab, had just received a multi-million dollar grant from the National Library of Medicine to study the impact of telemedicine on rural healthcare in the villages and bush regions of Alaska.
This work was interesting but it was hard to resist the offer to create the first website ever for the Great Alaska Shootout (sponsor name withheld). The Shootout is Alaska's largest, nationally televised, college sporting event, and this year marked the 20th anniversary. Each Thanksgiving the university was host to some of the nations top ranked college teams. Because they came from all over, the tournament produced some very interesting games between teams that would normally not play against each other in the regular season.
After working with nurses and doctors on telemedicine and rural healthcare issues, designing and maintaining a website for a major college sports event seemed like a great idea. I spent the next week working on the site plan. It called for a sixty-plus page site including pre-tournament stories, complete team information, post-game stories that included photos from courtside, and the ever popular tournament bracket.
The plan also called for students (many of them) to go around collecting data in the form of interviews, photos, etc. but back in September (when the plan had originally been presented) the UAA Athletics Department liked the idea but they didn't have money or resources to help with the project and so in late September the project was shelved and normal work resumed.
We had talked about the site a few times in October. Imagined how cool the whole project would have been and made plans for how to get started earlier in the planning and budgeting next year.
I had almost forgotten about it when Mel Kalkowski, then Director of Public Relations, came into the lab with a grin on his face. It was the Friday before the tournament started (the next Wednesday). A few minutes later we had hammered out all the details for going through with the plan. Fortunately I had just enough time to find and register the domain shootout.net with 9 Net Avenue, some outfit in New Jersey. I choose them because of their uptime guarantee, multiple T3 backbone to the Internet and 24/7 support staff. Oh, and they only charged $10 a month which was important because Mel was going to pay for this out of his pocket until he could convince the university to take over payments.
With that I left work early and began the design phase. For markup I had selected to use NetObjects Fusion, the new WYSISYG page/site layout program developed by Clement Mok, former Apple Designer and founder of Studio Archetype whose designers where responsible for the the fantastic 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games website.
It wasn't until the second game on the first day of the tournament that I realized choosing the New Jersey virtual host and Clemet Mok's software was a big, big mistake.