Meet the Peoria native and 'data geek' with ideas to upgrade the IHSA website
IHSA's newest hire Matt Jensen worked previously at Dunlap, Farmington and Washington
Sleek, smart-phone friendly and simple to use.
Matt Jensen’s vision for the Illinois High School Association website checks all those boxes.
“I think the IHSA does a great job with its current website,” the Peoria native said, “but we’re hoping to do a lot of modernization in the future. Give it a facelift. Make it more mobile. Make it more user friendly to access school information.
“It’s very, very cool to work here. It’s been a great couple of weeks. I couldn’t be happier. It’s quite surreal.”
Jensen was approved at last week’s IHSA board of directors meeting as the new Information Technology Director for the governing body of Illinois high school sports. He comes from stints at heading tech departments at the Dunlap, Farmington and Washington school districts.
Noting he’s always had a love for athletics, high school sports have also been a big part of Jensen’s life.
He spent two years of high school at Peoria High before playing basketball and graduating from Peoria Heights in 2000. Jensen recalls the atmosphere of attending basketball games, especially when River City rivals met on the Bradley University campus.
“Some of my fondest memories are going to Central-Manual games at the (Robertson Memorial) Field House with my parents,” he said.
Today, Jensen steps into the role vacated by Scott Johnson, who retired from the IHSA in 2019. The pair actually met many years ago when Jensen was working at Farmington.
Former Farmers and current Galesburg athletics director Eric Matthews made the introduction.
“(Johnson’s) a big history and statistical analyze kind of guy,” Jensen said of his predecessor. “We had this kind of in-depth conversation about it.”
After that, Jensen went on to create websites including one for the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament. He was able to incorporate streaming as well as team and individual statistics through StatCrew Software for the longstanding boys basketball holiday tournament.
This where his dreams of an IHSA website redesign begin to take form.
“I’m a pretty big data geek,” he admits. “It’s what, sort of, keeps me up at night — how can we make things easier, faster.
“I have an ESPN (website) feel in my brain that I don’t know if ever would be possible without a lot of integration.”
The goal for Jensen is to be able to utilize the info schools report to partners such as MaxPreps.com — without replacing them — to make a one-stop spot for all information. That would include schedules, scores and stats.
He points to the "Scorecenter" portion of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association website as a template. There, dropdown menus include WIAA school schedules, conference standings and a place to report scores.
Basically, he wants the IHSA website to display more information — both current and past — with a completely new, overhauled, more accessible look. All the while helping athletics directors statewide eliminate some of the tedious double-entries.
“It would be nice to see as the seasons progress how things are going (for teams),” Jensen said. “From seeing all the records that are here, I feel like that we can display this information in a more user-friendly fashion.”
The Heffren brothers:Once playful rivals, two Eureka brothers now partners on the basketball court
Don’t, however, expect to see an updated version of the IHSA website until after the spring sports state series. Many of the in-house developments by Johnson — the postseason assignment mapping software and the IHSA ScoreZone — will largely remain the same or feature small tweaks.
Plus, IHSA Archives, a YouTube channel featuring more than 1,100 videos of the best games in state history, will live on through the work of Jensen and Craig Johnson. Craig Johnson, Scott’s brother, is still archiving, making all the videos and publishing them.
“That will definitely keep going,” Jensen said. “I’m hoping that we can add more.”
Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.