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After 15 years, Vaughn reducing role with Dog Pound website

By Richard White

Brian Vaughn

Brian Vaughn

Over the past two decades the Greenwood High School (GHS) athletic program has enjoyed incredible success, and for the last 15 of those years that success has been reported and trumpeted by Brian Vaughn and his sports website known as the greenwooddogpound.com. But last week Vaughn announced that he is giving up his role as owner and manager of the website, though he will remain involved over the next several months as care of the Dog Pound transitions into new hands.

What began for Vaughn as an experiment and something of a curiosity has developed into one of the most distinguished high school sports websites in the nation. Vaughn started the Dog Pound in 1999 when he was in his mid-20s, but he is older now, and the passage of time has given him some perspective on what he has accomplished with the Dog Pound. It’s also brought the realization that all good things must end, like Greenwood’s 50-game winning streak in football ended last fall.

So after 15 years of hard work, long hours, and countless drops of blood, sweat, and tears (all of them Bulldog blue), Vaughn is stepping back and reducing his role with the Dog Pound to focus on other aspects of his life. He admits that his commitment to the website forced him to make some hard choices and sacrifices in life, but he doesn’t regret a thing.

During a recent interview, Vaughn shared some of his thoughts, feelings, and memories regarding the website over the last 15 years. By day he is an administrative specialist for the school of nursing at UA-Fort Smith, but after work he transforms into a local sports superhero, Mr. Bulldog, or as GHS head football coach Rick Jones likes to call him, “Greenwood’s unpaid sports information director.”

Before getting his current position at UAFS, Vaughn also worked locally for Melody Rhodes State Farm Insurance in Greenwood, and several retail outlets in Fort Smith, including the video rental industry and Hallmark. He is still a bachelor and remains close to his parents, Ken and Arlene Vaughn. He is also a 1993 GHS graduate, but strangely enough, did not follow sports in high school.

“I never played any sports at Greenwood,” said Vaughn. “I just naturally don’t have any athletic ability. But I really started following the [football] team in 1994 when [head coach] Ronnie Peacock got hired. The passing game peaked my interest. And 1996 was the big year that put Greenwood on the map. It was the year I really started following them passionately. In fact, the last [football] game I missed was the first game in 1996. I’ve been at every game, home or away, including scrimmages, even when I had my wisdom teeth pulled out the day before the scrimmage. I wouldn’t let the dentist take them out until he told me I could go to the scrimmage the next day. I really did look like a Bulldog that day, but I was there.”

“So I really started following the football program in 1996 – went to War Memorial – the whole thing. And in late 1997 or early 1998 I came up with the idea of a column for the newspaper called, “View From The Stands”. I wanted to give a fan’s perspective from being in the stands. I wrote it with my uncle, Harold Sosebee, and it was a hit because it was so unique and out-of-the-box.”

But Vaughn’s contributions went far beyond a weekly newspaper column. “I also had an idea about pre-game music, so on Media Day in 1998 I introduced myself to Martina Peacock, and told her I had some ideas about pre-game. I pitched the music idea and she loved it, and introduced me to Ronnie. Nothing would have developed without Martina Peacock. She saw someone who was interested, and she tapped into it, and from that point it really took off,” said Vaughn, who has remained as the DJ responsible for pre-game music at Smith-Robinson Stadium ever since.

“The original Dog Pound was me, my Uncle Harold, my dad, and Loren Schmidt. We were just loud, crazy fans. My uncle wore a cape in the stadium. Martina had us come to pep rallies and we would do skits that my uncle or my dad would write. But I had never done a website or photography or anything, so I started teaching myself. I bought the domain name and did my own graphics. It was crude compared to what it is now, but at the time it looked great, because it was unheard of in 1999-2000. And it’s just grown from that.”

“When it started, Coach Peacock didn’t know what to think. I think he was scared of it, but Martina loved it. Anything that was bigger and better, that was her philosophy. Coach Peacock was nervous about it, down to what pictures were on the website. He loved the publicity, but he never wanted anything that showed [football] formations, because he didn’t want it on the Internet.”

The progress was slow at first, according to Vaughn. “It was such a gradual process for me. I thought about taking a web design class. But so many people across the country really liked the simplicity of the website. It evolved itself at the pace that I learned. Back then it would take me 30 minutes to upload a page that I can do in 10 seconds today.”

The Dog Pound started on an old Packard Bell computer, said Vaughn. “I have three monitors now that I use. But one of the greatest additions to the website was Patrick Crumby. The Dog Pound would have never become what it has without him. In 2002 he contacted me on-line, and told me how he admired the website. He went to school at Greenwood, played in the band, and dabbled in graphics. He wasn’t married at the time and he was tickled to death to help. It just evolved from that point, and by 2003 he was a mainstay. When the Rick Jones era started in 2004, [Patrick] was a major part of the website. The graphics were all his. The Dog Pound became what it did over the last 12 years because of the two of us,” said Vaughn. “It wasn’t just me alone.”

But again, all good things must come to an end, and Patrick got married and went from no kids to three [adopted] kids almost overnight, explained Vaughn. And perhaps more than anything else, Patrick’s departure from the website proved to be a major turning point for Vaughn.

Why is now the time for him to walk away? “It’s not something I’ve come to decide overnight. It just wore on me physically,” admitted Vaughn. “I’m going to be 40 in July. The Dog Pound started 15 years ago, and I don’t have the energy I did back then. I probably pushed myself past where I needed to, and I may be paying for that now. Over the last year it was hard for me to keep up during football season. I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it without Sabastian Neece helping out.” Neece is a former Bulldogs’ player who assisted with photography, among other assorted duties.

“And this spring I’ve not been able to keep up,” continued Vaughn. “We have multiple sports – great sports – and they all want to be covered, and I feel an obligation to cover them equally. The Dog Pound has always [covered] the three main sports – football, basketball, and baseball – and anything else was extra,” said Vaughn. But in recent years Greenwood has won or played for state titles in numerous other sports, including golf, volleyball, and soccer.

“You’ve got to include them,” he added. “Over the last couple of years it’s gotten better, with more people submitting stuff to me so I don’t physically have to be at all the games – I can’t be at all the games – so you’re getting all this information, but you still have to sit at the computer for hours and develop it.”

“One of the questions I hate being asked is, ‘How long do you spend on this?’ I don’t know how to answer that question, because I don’t know when I’m not. It’s a fulltime job. If it’s done correctly I firmly believe it’s a fulltime job. But I have no regrets in saying that for the last 15 years the Bulldogs have been my top priority. People around me will tell you that – my parents will tell you that. Whatever I did revolved around what the Bulldogs were doing and what I needed to do for them. I never put anyone else first, including myself. I’ve taken jobs along the way that paid less to allow me to do that.”

“But I don’t regret doing it. The Dog Pound will be the greatest accomplishment of my life. It allowed me to do things and be places that very few people get to [experience]. UAFS is the first job I’ve ever had that had a retirement plan. So I’m looking toward the future and what I need to do.”

“I would love to do the Dog Pound for the rest of my life, if that’s what I was doing fulltime and it paid the bills. I’d love it. I’m passionate about it. But that opportunity is just not there, so I need to look out for what’s best for me. Whether that’s going back to school, relocating, or other job opportunities. I need to find a career at this point and quite having fun, I guess.”

Asked to summarize the impact and influence of the Dog Pound over the years, Vaughn said with obvious pride, “I think it’s been a huge positive. I think it’s been so beneficial to the community, to our athletes and our school system. I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes person, and I’ve never touted what I’ve done. At this point it’s respected across the state. They all follow our page. They know if it comes from us it’s a fact. We don’t deal in rumors or speculation. That comes from doing it for so many years.”

“Our community, our school district, and our athletes have gotten far more media coverage than they would have otherwise. The Dog Pound was the first website ever recognized by the AAA. But it took me over two years to get them to recognize a website. They just wouldn’t do it. It was print, radio, and television only. But now there’s several websites they recognize, but the Dog Pound is still the only single school website in Arkansas they recognize. The others are mass media websites.”

“We were the first to stream audio from the games. We had a Greenwood fan in Iraq and they re-listened to the games on Sundays in the mess hall. For them it was live, and the whole base adopted the Greenwood Bulldogs. Coach Jones has a proclamation from the general of the base. It was during our championship run, and the general had the game broadcast through the air raid speakers because they couldn’t fit everybody into the mess hall. That would have never happened without the Dog Pound.”

“I get called once or twice a year from all over the country wanting to know how we do what we do. And I tell every one of them the same thing, ‘Don’t’. Then they pause and ask what I mean? I tell them you have to be very passionate about what you’re getting into, because you’re about to create a monster, and then you have to feed it. Every time they call they say, ‘We’ve been looking all over the country at different websites, and we like yours.’ It’s not a cookie-cutter website. There’s a bunch of schools that have sports websites, but companies market those. It’s a “website-in-a-box” they are selling.”

“Ours was never the flashiest or the prettiest, and we never wanted it to be. I wanted to keep it simple. I want people to be able to find what they are looking for easily, and not have it cluttered. We’re never going to be the flashiest website, but we’re going to beat everyone in content. Flashy will only take you so far, but if you’ve got the content, they will keep coming back.”

Over time the audience for the Dog Pound has grown dramatically. “It was probably 2000 before we had the first month when 500 people visited the website,” said Vaughn. “That was huge. I couldn’t believe it. But this last year during football season we had over 27,000 people visit the website in one month. We’re over 180,000 a year now and it has grown every year consistently. We’ve added more stuff – social media – because it makes it so easy to update live and on the fly with Facebook and Twitter. It’s amazing to me the reach of the website with family, friends, and alumni. I think it’s been a tremendous asset to Greenwood and the school district over the last 15 years.”

“But I would never say that the Dog Pound has been responsible for the success of our athletic programs. I think it’s totally the other way around. The success the Dog Pound has enjoyed is due to the success of our programs, and that goes straight to the Greenwood School District for hiring such quality coaches through the years. Rick Jones doesn’t just coach football. He is teaching the game of life, and he’s done a tremendous job. Greenwood hit a homerun out of the ballpark when they hired him. And they’ve done that with their other programs,” said Vaughn.

“Greenwood is a football town. No one will deny that. But the other programs are successful [partly] because the football program is successful. They feed off each other. It’s a mentality. When one program is successful, the others want to be successful too. The football program has pulled the other sports with it. I firmly believe that. It’s gotten us better coaches and more kids interested in wanting to be a part of it, and more people are interested in our athletics, and that’s where the Dog Pound comes in.

“I’ve always been supportive of them and helped them any way I can,” said Vaughn. “[Athletic Director] H.B. Stewart allowed me to have the access, because if you don’t have access you can’t do anything. But they were very open. Of course, I don’t think the school knew what to do with me at the time. But over the years I earned their trust and respect. And when Jerry Cecil took over as Athletic Director – he was my high school principal – he always supported me 100%.

“Besides the administration, the coaches at Greenwood have been outstanding, and that’s in every program. I’ve never had a coach that would not work with me. Some were a little better than others at times, but for the most part they knew I was trying to promote their program, and they were helpful.”

Asked about his feelings now that he is on the verge of giving up his life’s work, Vaughn said, “I really have mixed feelings. It’s my baby, and I don’t want it to lose its shine. I think the fans have come to expect a level of consistency from it, and I would like that to continue.”

“I’ve always looked at the website as being an archive. I wish I could have developed it more. I wanted to do the full history of our sports programs. That was always my goal. But I never had time to develop it, when you’re trying to keep up each week, and it’s your second fulltime job. I easily spend and have spent as much time on the Dog Pound as I do my real job. I’m working 80-hour weeks, and I’m still poor.”

“So I’m torn,” he continued. “I want it to continue, but I would hate to see it fall apart. But then a part of me says, ‘You just need to let go.’ I’m sure I will have days that I wish I could jump in and do something. But I’m really at peace. I really went into this last football season thinking it was probably going to be my last.”

Vaughn also wanted to plug his advertisers who have supported the website in recent years. “The Dog Pound would not have been as long-lived had it not been for our ad sponsors. I love our sponsors, but I did it for years without any ads at all. To this day I don’t feel like I’ve made any money on the website selling ads. It’s been upkeep, gas money, camera equipment, etc. So it was great to have those people on board.” Vaughn gave a special shout out to Smith Chevrolet and Elite Roofing, his two biggest sponsors who have been with him for several years.

Summing up his comments, Vaughn said of the Dog Pound, “It’s what I do, day in and day out. I come home and check my email. I check Facebook. I’m the information source, and I get the word out. I come home every day and spend a couple of hours at my computer, and it can easily become three or four hours. And on the weekends it’s all day. If I have to mow grass, something on the website doesn’t get done. If I go out of town, something doesn’t get done. You’ve got that weight on your shoulders all the time, because you’re never caught up. There’s never enough time in the day. I guess part of that is just me demanding too much of myself. Maybe it was overkill at times, but the more we put out there the more they wanted. But it wears on you – the pressures of what all needs to get done.”

“But I’ve made so many great relationships due to the website. Coaches, administrators, parents, and the players themselves.” Some of those players include Bulldog greats from the past such as Tyler Wilson, Daniel Stegall, Stephen Hogan, Drew Morgan, Adam McFain, and many others. Vaughn and the Dog Pound were involved in the college recruitment of some of those players, helping to spread the word about their accomplishments on the field.

“A lot of people want to honor the work I’ve put into it,” said Vaughn. “That Patrick and Sebastian have put into it. I’m glad you stepped in. You do a tremendous job, and your writing adds to the archive. It’s a way to make a memory, and keep a memory of what we were doing at that time.”

For this amateur sportswriter, it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with Brian Vaughn and the Dog Pound for the past few years, and to be a part of such a great athletic program at Greenwood High School. And as the Dog Pound moves forward, I will continue to be involved as a writer, but now also as manager of the website, with Brian’s help and blessing. So for myself and thousands of other Greenwood fans, I want to wish Brian all the best in the future, and just say to him, thanks for the memories.

 

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