I can still remember sitting in this very same spot in the Joe Craft Center more than one year ago, twiddling my thumbs and surfing the Internet when DeWayne Peevy, UK's associate athletics director of media relations (and my boss), wandered into the room and said, "Hey Eric, when are we going to launch the blog?"
See, weeks earlier, UK Athletics brought me over from the traditional media to kind of pioneer a new social media aspect in what was your typical run of the mill media relations department. To that point, few schools had tried to reach out to their fans and provide content other than the tradition news release.
Peevy, hired just months earlier as the new leader in the media relations department and the new men's basketball contact, had different ideas.
He wanted to bring the fans closer to UK Athletics and provide them with in-house information that no one else could provide. Peevy wanted a UK Athletics insider, a person that would write news stories, features, run live blogs, shoot video, etc. from inside the athletic department to give the most passionate fan base in the world another avenue for sports information.
Although we didn't know where we going at the time, Peevy entrusted me with starting and developing "Cat Scratches," the official blog of UK Athletics.
When we first conceptualized it, as I described above, I was a recent - and lost - graduate twiddling my fingers in the office of a multi-million dollar athletics department. In short, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Weeks later after that initial conversation with Peevy, we launched Cat Scratches on Jan. 14, 2009. Although we've dived into multiple other social media endeavors since then with Twitter, Facebook, multimedia, etc., Cat Scratches was the engine behind the movement.
Well, today marks our first birthday. Although my tired and mangled fingers would tell you different (they've typed enough to make me feel like I'm 60) today we turn 1 year old.
Contrary to the amount of words this post is going to eat up, we don't want to make a tremendously big deal out of it. After all, we feel like we just started this yesterday. But today we did want to look back at what got us here and reflect on 10 key moments of the blog.
We have no clue where we're headed or what the next year holds, but we will continue to build on the mission we set more than a year ago when Peevy strolled into the office and asked me when we were launching the blog.
That is to provide you, the fans, with a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week blog with the most up-to-date news surrounding the UK program and offer you the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on inside the UK athletics program. In short, we want to continue to provide you premium information on a daily basis without the premium cost, because you are, after all, what makes the blog possible. (We want to continue to encourage everyone to send us their feedback and comments either on the actual posts or to email@example.com).
Without further delay, here's our look back at some of the key moments that have helped shape this blog (in chronological order):
1.) The first day: Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was pure coincidence. Whatever the case was, we couldn't have picked a better day to start a blog. We launched the day after Jodie Meeks' historic night at Tennessee when he broke Dan Issel's single-game scoring record and had a one-on-one interview with the star. By the end of the day, we were privileged enough to break the news that All-Southeastern Conference cornerback Trevard Lindley was returning for his senior season.
2.) The live blog introduction: One of the biggets components of Cat Scratches was the introduction of the CoveritLive live blog. The application allowed us to bring fans a live blog in real-time format where fans could send in questions and comments and join in on the discussion. We started the live blog with the UK-South Carolina game and it's blossomed ever since. We've used it for everything from live game blogs to live player play chats and live scouting previews.
3.) Football Signing Day: We didn't know what we had going on until Football Signing Day when we hosted a live Signing Day blog with some of UK's assistant coaches. As we reported on the letters being faxed in, we sat down with some of the UK coaches to talk about the recruiting class. We anticipated a few hundred people would be on, but we never could have imagined the 4,000-plus people that logged in. To borrow a much-used cliche: It was a whirlwind. Expect something similar this year.
4.) Giving UK Athletics a voice: The live blog application also allowed UK Athletics to speak to the fans. With the introduction of a live chat with Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart in mid February, we opened the door for a bevy of live chats with UK coaches and players throughout the year. We started with men's basketball stars Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, conducted live football blogs with the assistant coaches during spring football practice, continued this summer with "Wildcat Wednesdays," an eight-week series of chats with UK players and coaches around the athletics department, and just recently had a live chat with freshman basketball players John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Thousands have joined the blogs.
5.) Along for the journey: Cat Scratches finally hit the road with some of the teams in early March with a trip Gainesville, Fla., for the UK-Florida game. Just a week later we were back on the road for the SEC basketball Tournament in Tampa to profile the Cats' tourney run. Although the journey ended a bit early for UK, it opened the door for future road trips and expansive coverage. Expect more this spring.
6.) The day everything changed: I don't need to say much about April 1, the day John Calipari was named the 22nd coach in men's basketball history. The ramifications of his hiring have made an impact on just about everything in the Bluegrass State, and it was certainly no different for this blog.
7.) UK Athletics is more than basketball: That notion was reaffirmed on our trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the softball team's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in school history. We traveled to and from Columbus for three consecutive days - that's a story for another time - to cover each game of the Cats' historic postseason appearance. UK ultimately came up short of a Super Regional appearance, but the feedback and numbers on the live blog shed proof of Big Blue Nation's love for all 22 of its varsity sports.
8.) The multimedia factor: It took me a while to warm up to the use of video - after all, my forte and background is writing - but I finally embraced the use of video a few months ago and quickly realized I couldn't have been more wrong about the use of multimedia. Since our first rifle video feature with student assistant Evan Crane, we have shot video at news conferences and at interviews with players and coaches, each of which has picked up hundreds - sometimes thousands - of views on the blog and our YouTube channel.
9.) A growing production team: One thing I've always wanted to make sure happened with this blog is that it was not all about me. It truly isn't. It's about UK Athletics, and there are so many different people that can tell the never-ending stories of the student-athletes, the tradition and the history of the athletics program. That's why I've been so pleased over the past few months to introduce the likes of Tom Leach, our newest baseball contributor Adam Revelette, our student assistants, and of course, Pete Camagna (better known to some of you as Cam) to help tell the stories. Without Camagna, UK's web coordinator and the blog's right-hand man, the blog is not possible.
10.) A new look: If there was one thing that lacked about our blog for months, it was the fact that, well, it didn't look like a traditional blog. Quite frankly, we didn't have the blogging software to do the things we wanted to do. Finally, on Oct. 21, we were able to unveil Cat Scratches Version 3.0, giving the blog a much-needed facelift. The new look separated each post into its own individual entry, opened the door for comments and questions, created an RSS feed for each post and helped organize our archiving system.
There are so many other posts and stories that I could go on and on about. Whether it was the LeBron James visit, the retirment news of Rich Brooks or the historic run by the volleyball team, they have all played a key role in developing Cat Scratches.
Although it seems like just yesterday when Peevy encouraged me to start the blog, we've come a long way and hope to take it much farther.
Here's hoping we're back to do it again next year.