Get to know Ben Glicksman, SI.com’s high school football beat writerPosted: October 28, 2011
It’s a tall task when you consider the hundreds of high school football programs across the country that must be accounted for, especially in comparison to “just” 32 NFL and 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. But if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Ben Glicksman (@BenGlicksman).
As an intern last fall, he was assigned many of the write-ups for SI.com’s High School Player of the Week section. Even after he returned to Northwestern earlier this year for his final semester at Medill School of Journalism, Glicksman continued to contribute to the website and stay abreast of the high school sports scene. After he was hired by SI full-time following his graduation in June, he didn’t miss a beat. Since mid-August he has published detailed power rankings of the country’s top high school football programs—not just listing the top teams but also providing nuggets of information on top recruits, ballyhooed upcoming matchups and more.
So how has Glicksman put his personal touch on this burgeoning sport while conveying the most information and telling the best stories possible? His schedule from Friday night to Monday morning (when the power rankings are published) looks something like this.
More and more, high school football has established a presence on national television. “On any given Friday night there will be 4-5 games being broadcast and I can go back and forth between them,” Glicksman says.
And he isn’t limited to just the games that are nationally broadcast. “There are a couple of games you can find streaming online, especially if it’s a high-profile matchup or a game that features top recruits,” he says. “I watch as much of those as I can. I also visit at a lot of live blogs and Twitter feeds to be on the lookout for possible upsets or great individual performances.”
One of the hardest parts of Glicksman’s is tracking down something that reporters for the NFL and college football take for granted: Box scores.
“There are a bunch of different local outlets covering the games, and they all end up having different stats,” Glicksman says. “So I’ve formed relationships with the athletic directors and coaches of the more high-profile programs, and they send over stats that we can use. When it comes from the coach or athletic director, that’s when you know it’s accurate.”
Starting on Saturdays, Glicksman’s quest is to get as much information from as many people as possible about all the games. Not just box scores and stats but also pictures, fun anecdotes from the games and from inside the programs, glowing reviews of the nation’s most hyped recruits and more. Often times these quests yield enough material for feature stories wholly separate from the power rankings. So far in 2011 Glicksman has written profiles on Hueytown (Ala.) High quarterback Jameis Winston, record-breaking running back Johnathan Gray of Aledo (Texas) High and Lake Mary (Fla.) Prep’s do-everything star Ray Lewis III (the son of the future Hall of Fame linebacker for the Ravens).
“One of the best things about covering high school sports is some of the stories of character and these kids’ backgrounds,” Glicksman says. “When you ask professional athletes about the source of their success, they will almost always cite an experience from high school. It’s nice to know that and see that as its happening.”
With the weekend’s games in the books, Glicksman finalizes the order of his rankings and completes the write-ups on the teams in his top ten along with a list of his “Next five” and “Other notables” that just missed the cut and assorted notes from around the country. In the markets of several teams that have spent the entire season in the top ten, the rankings have quickly become a regular, early-week news item on TV sports broadcasts.
“It speaks to how the appetite for this thing is growing,” Glicksman said. “Some of the athletic departments you reach out to are really excited to be contacted by Sports Illustrated. Up until recently, good press counted as getting your name in the local paper. I’m glad people are reading the rankings.”