BY MIKE FIELDS
It’s hard to believe there was a time when William Warfield didn’t know anything about computers, didn’t know about bytes or bandwidths, didn’t know the difference between algorithms and algae.
When he started working at RadioShack as a high school senior 22 years ago, Warfield remembers he was “afraid to sell a computer because I didn’t know anything about it. It was a foreign language to me.”
Today, Warfield has his own business and makes a nice living thanks to computers. And if you think he’s sequestered in a cubicle somewhere, pecking a keyboard and getting bleary-eyed, think again.
As the founder and operator of PrepSpin, Warfield occupies press boxes and press rows where, with his souped-up laptop, he live-streams more than 200 sporting events a year.
PrepSpin’s main focus is on high school sports.
“That’s my passion,” Warfield said. “I feel like my purpose is to help high school kids, recognize them, give them exposure, find a way to open doors for them. I think we do a great job of doing that.”
PrepSpin also partners with the KHSAA and live-streams several of its state championships, including the boys’ and girls’ Sweet Sixteen basketball tournaments, and the state football finals.
When KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett first considered web-streaming, Warfield’s name popped up on his radar.
“People kept telling me this was the guy we needed producing it, that he could make it work with two tin cans and a string, but if we gave him resources, he would take it to another level,” Tackett said.
PrepSpin does work on the college level, too. It has streamed some University of Kentucky soccer and volleyball.
Warfield is in Canada this week, getting ready to cover a college hoops showcase in Vancouver. His assistant, Jack Haines, is in Florida, also prepping for a college basketball tournament. (Lexington-based bd Global is putting on both events and hired PrepSpin to live-stream them.)
Warfield also streams Lexington Legends’ baseball home games for MiLB TV.
But Warfield gets the most satisfaction from covering high school sports, streaming prep athletes’ accomplishments across the state and nation.
(Yes, nation. Warfield proudly notes that PrepSpin has had 27 of its highlights wind up on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays. He recalls an August night two years ago when PrepSpin live-streamed Lafayette at Boyle County football. Lafayette quarterback Walker Wood had a zig-zagging 63-yard touchdown run that Warfield sent out on PrepSpin’s twitter account. After the game, before Warfield got out of the parking lot, ESPN called, looking to include Wood’s scamper in its Top 10.)
Warfield credits his days with RadioShack (from 1997-2007) for educating him about computers. He learned from the people he worked with, and he was certified in computer technology through RadioShack’s training program.
In 2007, when he was working for REM Company in Versailles, his boss, Mark Moore, asked Warfield if he could find a way to stream a radio broadcast of his son’s Woodford County high school baseball game so Moore could listen to it when he was on business in California.
Warfield figured out how to do it, and that was the first step toward him earning him the nickname, “The King of Stream.”
That’s also when Warfield, a Jessamine County alum, created a website devoted to high school sports in his home county. It included a blog that recapped games and featured photos and videos.
One thing led to another, including live audio broadcasts, then low-quality video to go with them.
As computer technology rapidly advanced, Warfield kept improving his streaming capabilities. He worked for iHigh for a while, and when he got laid off from that company, the KHSAA came calling. In 2013 PrepSpin became the KHSAA’s media streaming partner
“Very quickly it was apparent that he had the same goals to raise the bar as I did,” Tackett said. “We became the first state in the (National Federation of State High School Associations) to originate a full HD broadcast. They had to look at changing their streaming hardware and software because of the quality product he produced.”
PrepSpin’s streaming is now better quality than ESPN’s, and some of its broadcasts are seen on multiple platforms, including Youtube and Facebook.
Lexington Catholic and Lexington Christian have contracted PrepSpin to stream a certain number of their sports during the school year. But that doesn’t keep Warfield from giving coverage to lots of Central Kentucky schools.
He’s got loyal advertisers, too, including PrepSpin title sponsor Mingua Beef Jerky.
Warfield found out what kind of support he had in January 2017, when somebody broke into his truck in a restaurant parking lot after a game and stole $20,000 worth of equipment, including a computer and cameras.
“We had sponsors step forward and say, ‘We want to help because we love what you’re doing,’” Warfield recalled. Bluegrass Orthopedics, and Mark Moore, Warfield’s former boss at REM, were among them.
Gary Ball, who’s been doing high school sports radio play-by-play for 30 years, signed on with PrepSpin five years ago. He’s become a big fan of Warfield’s streaming.
“He takes it to such another level,” Ball said. “The quality and clarity are so good. It’s mesmerizing to watch.”
Former Paul Laurence Dunbar coach Mike Meighan, Ball’s sidekick for football broadcasts, said their viewing audience isn’t just watching at home on computers or phones.
“We were sitting up here (in the press box) doing a game, and one of the teams had a big TV on the sidelines and they had the PrepSpin broadcast going and were watching our instant replay!”
Tackett said Warfield “could have gone on to bigger and better, but he’s never forgotten his community roots.
“I think he sometimes sells himself short, doing too much for free, but we appreciate the effort and resources he contributes to making our productions the best in the country.”
Since it is already a national pace-setter in streaming, what’s next for PrepSpin?
“We continue to lead the way in quality. We’re always ahead of the curve,” Warfield said. “Adding to our crew is probably the next chapter for us. We’ve got enough equipment to handle three live broadcasts at the same time.”
He’d also like to produce a PrepSpy Awards Show (like ESPN’s ESPYs).
“That’s something I really want to do,” Warfield said. “It’d be another way to promote high school sports, and that’s my passion.”
And that’s the mission of PrepSpin.