On Monday night I participated in an intimate gathering at Vincennes Lincoln, known as the “Class Basketball Roadshow” hosted by Ind. State Sen. Mike Delph and the IHSAA.
Truthfully, it took a couple of days to digest what was heard, but not unlike eating Chinese food, shortly afterward you are left feeling unsatisfied.
Now I will say, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I like the current system. I didn’t before, but now I do.
Let me also say after talking with Sen. Delph for quite a while after the meeting, I think I might even support multi-class basketball even more.
I will stipulate to the fact that what Indiana had was a tremendous playoff system. It reflected so much of what Hoosiers held dearly and was a rallying point for everyone every year.
And then it changed.
I didn’t understand why at the time, but it changed and people felt left out of the process. There was anger and resentment and we began a debate that has involved fans, coaches, administrators and legislators. Its a debate that continued on Monday in a near-empty auditorium at Vincennes Lincoln.
To the best of my understanding, the reasons given by Delph and the few dissenters to return to a single-class system is declining IHSAA championship game revenues, the belief small schools would like a chance to play for the “big prize,” and the tradition and history of the old tourney. Each reason is valid to a degree, but what isn’t being recognized is the tectonics shifts in sports and culture since the change.
Size makes a difference.
If you are picking a team out of a group of 1,000 boys, you have a much better chance of finding young men who are 6-8 with a sweet left-handed baby hook shot. The Carmel basketball team comes out of a group of boys much larger than the combined population of every Daviess and Martin County high school. Would I like to see a couple of the last few combined Times Herald All Area teams take them on? Sure, but that is a whole different argument.
Delph said that seven boys with a disciplined coach and a solid work effort could win. He is correct, also as every other variable is held constant.
Delph pointed to the success of the NCAA tourney, but that is a completely different example. Division I schools are not based on student population and their basketball teams don’t come from within that population. Butler and Indiana University are completely different types of institutions with very little common, other than they were dead-even in the Cody Zeller lottery until Cody finally decided to put on the stripes. It wasn’t about size of school, it was about blue chip athletes picking where THEY want to be in spite of the size school — and that is the great equalization in the NCAA.
The IHSAA is facing declining attendance to a degree, but there is no logic in thinking that two teams will bring more people than eight teams. They are now involving more teams and more communities than ever before and that has been the best part of the change.
Although Greg Oden and Mike Conley were phenomenal high school players, even their “star power” wasn’t going to get me to spend $150 in tickets for my family and pay $4 a gallon in gas to go watch them play Hamilton Southeastern or Pike.
Why? Because I don’t know them and I have no connection to them.
Other major changes have come with the explosion of AAU basketball and charter schools. I’m not here to judge it, but it does change the equation when eighth grade teammates from AAU teams are now deciding collectively what boundaries that will have to cross to play on the same team in high school. I guess they cut that scene out of “Hoosiers.”
I think the argument for “tradition” is the oddest one of all. As we reminisce about the good ol’ days when a half-dozen small schools battled for a chance to win a sectional title, our governor is doing everything he can wipe the tradition of small schools off the map. I guess he and Sen. Delph must really like one-class basketball, because they would then have a whole lot of 2,500-student high schools to vie for that title — and things would be more equal after all.
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