Sabre.sleuth: Ingalls' Hoosports site tells all
Mike Ingalls probably had a pretty good month. Aside from the predictable March Madness frenzy, certain corners of the Internet are abuzz with talk of UVA basketball coach Pete Gillen's departure and impending replacement.
Ingalls' baby, thesabre.com, is one of those hot spots. Long before it was bookmarked by UVA sports fans everywhere, The Sabre was a small pet project run entirely by Ingalls in his free time.
"The site was established and run by me for two years out of my pocket with no income coming in," Ingalls recalls. "Initially it wasn't a business model."
He began to realize the site's potential in 1997 when he stopped updating it due to a gunshot wound he suffered during a heroic attempt to foil an armed robbery at the Yuan Ho restaurant on Maury Avenue. Sympathy messages poured in from fans he didn't even know he had.
These days, thanks to a more organized business plan and the help of fans-turned-investors, The Sabre has evolved into the first (and often last) stop for serious UVA fans. Ingalls thinks that's because it is run by the same sort of people it targets. "We're in it for the belief in the team, even though we do kind of have to watch the bottom line," he says.
To that end, The Sabre began a subscription service in October 2003, allowing access to its best features only to users who were willing to ante up. The expected backlash never came, even when the price of admission rose again.
"We got a lot of positive feedback and people reaffirming their loyalty to the site," says Ingalls, 39. "We didn't actually see a drop in subscriptions."
With extra funds at his disposal, Ingalls was able to put former Daily Progress sports writer John Galinsky to work as editor and manager. "I've been really impressed," says Galinsky, almost a year to the day after coming aboard. "Mike has managed to make a career out of something he loves."
It worked so well that Ingalls managed to persuade his investors to create an umbrella company and launch a second site– ironically enough, Virginia Tech's techsideline.com.
"When you're dealing with two rivalry schools, that's a tough line to walk," says Ingalls.
Doubly so if you're a rabid fan, as Ingalls certainly was during his time with the military. "If they'd lose, I'd be sick to my stomach for an entire day, and I wouldn't be able to eat," he says of his once-crippling fondness for UVA's football program.
"I don't personally have anything against Virginia Tech. I don't really take my fanship to that level," he insists.
He then drifts into a pause which is equal parts dramatic, mysterious, and hysterical.
"Well, not anymore."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO