Class BasketballMay 18th, 2012 at 10:33 pm by Eric Halvorson under Eric Halvorson's Blog
Hoosiers feel a special connection to the game of basketball. Through memories such as “the Milan Miracle”, the game became etched into our heritage. The unlikely victory in 1954 — of a small school over a big school — inspired the movie “Hoosiers.”
One state Senator, Mike Delph of Carmel, says basketball is a game “unlike any other sport in the State of Indiana … It’s uniquely Hoosier. It’s a sport where you can get five to seven kids that are disciplined, conditioned, well-coached and, with a little luck, they can shock the world at different levels through our basketball tournament.”
Indiana left the single-class system 15 years ago. But, this year, Delph launched the latest push to remove the different levels and return to a single class in Indiana’s high school basketball tournament. “I was inspired by the Butler Bulldogs and the magical ride that they brought the State of Indiana” in two NCAA tournament runs.
The series of public meetings, 11 in all after the May 24th session in Gary, came as a compromise between Delph and IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox. “We agreed, if he would pull the provisions of Senate Bill 236, to remove the single-class basketball mandate, I would be willing to publicly study it,” Cox told me. “I don’t think there’s any utility in turning a deaf ear to the public. I don’t think there’s any utility in turning a deaf ear to the legislature.”
I discussed it with Cox and Delph. (You can hear both interviews on the radio Sunday morning, May 20th. The program will be broadcast on My107.9 and WZPL at 7 a.m. The program will air at other times on WXNT AM 1430.)
Is The Tournament Fair?
Mike Delph objects to the concept that it’s best to match schools of roughly equal size. “Life is simply not fair,” he said. “You are expected to go into the world and compete. You have to compete against everybody else when you go to college, to get into college. When you get a job, you have to go out and compete … So there’s not this Fairness Doctrine out there for most of life.”
Cox disagrees. “I understand life’s not fair and there are a lot of things we can’t control. But this is something we can control,” he said. “So why wouldn’t we try to create a level playing field for youngsters across the State of Indiana to compete? And they’re going to learn those lessons of winning and losing.” Cox contends students will learn more from a close game with a comparable competitor than they’d gain from being blown-out by a big team.
Competing for an Audience?
Delph says the drop in tournament attendance suggests a need to return to the old format. He told me it’s down “because that Hoosier Hysteria, that excitement has been lost. The proof is in the numbers,” he said.
To that, Cox said: “We need to do a better job of marketing our tournament. We need to do a better job making that tournament experience fun, so people will come.”
Cox also told me this is an odd time to call for a change in the basketball tournament.
What Happens Next?
If it were up to Boys Basketball coaches, the tournament could change. Cox said the boys coaches “are very slightly in favor of a single class tournament. Girls coaches aren’t.” The opinions of administrators, athletic directors, and the athletes will be considered before any decision is made.
The final hearing, May 24th in Gary, offers the last chance for a straw poll among people who attend the hearings. The IHSAA will post the results of its surveys on-line.
Then, in June, the issue will be on the agenda for the IHSAA Board and staff retreat. Cox told me not to expect a statement until July.
Delph said he hopes “through the evidence and through the reconnection of the history, [the IHSAA has] a change of heart. But, it’s going to be their decision.”
For me, as someone who’s listened to this basketball debate for a long time, I can’t help thinking someone else might be listening. If the IHSAA does return to single-class basketball, imagine the encouragement that will give to the people who still object to Daylight Saving Time in Indiana.