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Changes coming to Indiana high school basketball tournament?



Carmel High School senior Grant Goodman (44), left, and senior James Crowley (10) celebrate the team's victory after Carmel defeated New Haven at Marion High School in the 2013 IHSAA Boys' 4A Regional Basketball Championship, March 9, 2013. / Doug McSchooler for The Star

An alternative format to the current four-class Indiana high school basketball tournament will be voted on by high school basketball coaches next month, the first step in a plan to overhaul Hoosier Hysteria amid sagging fan interest.

The Indiana Basketball Coaches Association will send a survey to all of the state’s boys and girls basketball coaches in mid-October on revised tournament structure. If the survey generates enough support, the IBCA will formally submit a proposal to the Indiana High School Athletic Association in the spring.

“The goal is to correct some of the weaknesses of the four-class system,” IBCA executive director Steve Witty said.

The IHSAA controversially adopted the current setup in 1997-98, scrapping the all-comers, single-class tournament made famous for its David vs. Goliath format. That idea was solidified forever when Milan won the 1954 tournament, immortalized by the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers.”

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The IBCA proposal is not an attempt to restore the single-class format, but does address some of the travel issues and unbalanced sectionals that have plagued the tournament. The 22,820 fans to attend the 2012 boys state finals was the lowest number in history and the total number of 385,024 was a record low since the beginning of class basketball.

Some of the highlights of the proposed tournament format includes:

- Squeezing the tournament from four classes to three and creating two divisions within each class by enrollment. The two division in 3A would have 32 schools with an enrollment from 1,935 to 4,687 students. The lower division in 3A would have enrollment from 1,929-1,504. In 2A, the top division would have 64 teams and the lower division 96 teams. In Class A, the split would be 96 teams in the top division and 85 in the lower division.

- The divisions would stay separated through the sectional round, resulting in 80 sectional winners, and then come together at the regional round. Class 3A would have four four-team regionals, with 2A and A each with eight four-team regionals. Class 3A would have two games, while 2A and A would have two four-team sites.

- The state finals would be three games.

The IBCA believes the proposal would result in a more localized regional, create more opportunities for the underdog and reduce travel at the local level.

“If this proposal creates more fairness for our membership, then it’s something I think we should take a look at,” IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said. “At the end of the day, that’s what this is about. If there’s going to be a change, it needs to come from the membership, so we’ll take a look at the numbers presented from the IBCA and then go from there.”

Cox embarked on an 11-stop town hall tour of the state last spring along with state senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel) to discuss the tournament format. While a majority of fans at the public hearings were in favor of a return to the single-class system, the overall turnout for the meetings was moderate at best.

The Indiana Football Coaches Association did push through a change last year, adding a sixth class. In addition, a “tournament success factor” was established for all team sports, beginning this year, allowing teams to move up a class in a particular sport based on a past tournament success.

Witty said the IBCA isn’t specifically looking for a certain percentage on the survey, but said somewhere in the neighborhood 75 percent would probably be enough to move ahead.

“We took a lot of the ideas the IHSAA related to us in meetings about what they would or would not accept and sat down the committee and tried to design a tournament that would correct some of those perceived weaknesses,” Witty said.

The state’s high school athletic directors would also have to sign off on the proposal before it went before the IHSAA. A three-class proposal was shot down in 2008.

The IBCA tournament committee is made up of 18 coaches from around the state and co-chaired by Columbia City coach Chris Benedict and Anderson University assistant coach Tom Beach.

Kyle Neddenriep writes for the Indy Star, a Gannett property.

 

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