HENRYVILLE — Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox recently issued his final report on the study of the boys’ and girls’ state basketball tournament formats in Indiana, and I am not sure that what Cox said surprised anyone.
What was probably more frustrating to me is that it came in response to Senate Bill 236 in the Indiana State Senate, in which state Senator Mike Delph put language in this bill that would make it illegal to participate in a multi-class tournament. You read that right — illegal.
This sounds and reads like an attack on the IHSAA itself, which doesn’t bother me as much as having state senators getting involved in high school sports. I am sure Mr. Delph is a very good man, but aren’t there more serious problems to deal with?
I am a supporter of multi-class sports, and we probably need to move to classes in all sports (if it’s good enough for football and basketball ... well, those are arguments for another time, I guess). There are so many arguments for and against that I won’t go into here because to be honest, it has made me physically ill listening to both sides and how the two sides use the same arguments each time with neither side actually listening to the other side (think politics or religion).
But what I found interesting is how the IHSAA went about coming to the conclusion of their decision that class sports are here to stay ... for now.
They held a series of town meetings and surveyed the IHSAA member schools. I don’t know about anyone else, but the findings in both were not surprising to me.
With the town meetings, you know who is going to be motivated to travel to one of these things. It is usually, for the most part, those that are not happy with the current set-up. Not only were they mostly attended by those that dislike the current set-up, the meetings weren’t very well-attended in the first place. There were 11 town meetings and 514 votes were cast with 68 percent wanting to return to the one-class tournament. That’s not a large number of votes when you compare it to the voting population of the entire state of Indiana.
Secondly, they had principals, athletic directors, coaches and players fill out surveys online. This was a direct contact with a group, and I wasn’t surprised by the findings. A large majority (70 percent of all groups except basketball coaches, which approved by 55 percent) supported the current set-up.
I don’t have the numbers, but I am going to guess that more than 514 people voted with the online survey. Does that matter? I mean, it should come down to percentages, right?
Maybe, but what if the 2 million-plus people who voted in the 2008 presidential election in Indiana were given the opportunity to vote on the issue? That would be considerably more than 514 votes at the town meetings and then would the percentage still be 68 percent, or would it be higher or lower?
I have two ideas to help settle this issue. First, make it a public referendum in the next election. Let the people decide and then do what a large percentage wants to be done. Make it 70 percent. If 70 percent vote either way, we will do what that group wants done and then it would be over with (yeah, right).
Second, if the class vote wins, let’s do a compromise — a real compromise that I think many people would be behind (put that on the referendum too). Let’s have class basketball, baseball — whatever sports you want to include for the sectional and regional levels. After that, throw the best four teams from each class into one final state tournament. Smaller schools get a chance for some success in the tourney, and that’s what most want. It isn’t about winning more state championships, it’s about having the opportunity for some success. This plan allows for one state champion. This is known around basketball circles at the Hickory Compromise that HickoryHusker.com’s Leigh Evans has pushed for many years.
It would set up small school against big school and allow for one state champion. I mean, it has so much common sense to it, it probably has zero chance of ever happening, but I can dream, can’t I?
Perry Hunter is a history teacher and the former boys’ varsity basketball coach at Henryville High School. You can read his blog online at coachperryhunter.blogspot.com.