Class basketball debate reopens in statewide meetings

Published: .
Updated: .

Class basketball is up for debate again in Indiana. The Indiana High School Athletic Association will hold 11 town meetings across the state during April in May to hear public input on the issue of class basketball, and to decide if the high school boys and girls basketball state tournaments should be handled differently.

Indiana crowned four boys basketball state champions last Saturday. State Senator Mike Delph, (R) Carmel, still fondly remembers when there was just one champion. Delph wants Indiana to return to its tradition of every school, big and small, in one tourney.

"I love the tradition of basketball in the state of Indiana," said Delph at a news conference at IHSAA headquarters. "I've been very concerned about the lack of respect that tradition has been shown."

Delph sponsored a bill in the last General Assembly to bring back the old tourney. IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox persuaded Delph to wait for public input. The IHSAA Board of Directors adopted class basketball in 1996. The first multi-class tournament was held in 1997. The most recent IHSAA survey of members schools six years ago showed 85% support class basketball.

"We have decided it and we've been in this for over 15 years now," said Cox. "But I think it's important for us to revisit what we do in all aspects of high school athletics."

Pete Smith just coached Guerin Catholic High School to the Class 3A championship, the first state title for the school in any sport.

"When you can win your class, you're playing at a really competitive level playing field," said Smith. "I sure miss the old style. But times have changed. I think it's here to stay."

University High School has less than 300 students. The Trailblazers won a Class A sectional this season. But not even teammates on that team can agree on class basketball.

Junior Jordan Pickett prefers one tournament for all.

"For me as a great competitor, I would love that," said Pickett.

"I personally think it should be class basketball," says senior Grant Randel, "just because everybody has an opportunity to win a state championship."

Junior Kevin Bates would prefer a chance to challenge bigger schools in the state tourney.

"When smaller schools come up with the victory," says Bates, "it's really cool because it gives us the chance to let everyone know who we are and that we're the real deal."

The meetings begin in Fort Wayne on April 10th. The IHSAA hopes to have its findings compiled by the first week of June.

Town Meeting Series Schedule

Tues. Apr. 10, 2012 F.W. Northrop HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Mon. Apr. 16, 2012 Vincennes Lincoln HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Tues. Apr. 17, 2012 Plainfield HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Mon. Apr. 23, 2012 Seymour HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Tues. Apr. 24, 2012 Pendleton Heights HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Wed. Apr. 25, 2012 Merrillville HS 7:00 p.m. CT

Tues. May 1, 2012 Milan HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Tues. May 8, 2012 Plymouth HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Thur. May 10, 2012 Marion HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Wed. May 16, 2012 Connersville HS 7:00 p.m. ET

Thur. May 24, 2012 Gary Roosevelt HS 7:00 p.m. CT

History of the class basketball system in Indiana

The IHSAA is governed by its legislative body, the Board of Directors. Composed of 19 members who are elected by member school principals from three IHSAA legislative districts, the directors serve staggered three-year terms. The Board of Directors meets annually with the responsibility of establishing the Association's rules and regulations.

On April 29, 1996, the IHSAA Board of Directors approved by a 12-5 vote a proposal from the Class Sports Study Committee which recommended multiple class tournament formats in the sports of boys basketball, girls basketball, boys soccer, girls soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball with a maximum of four classes. Implementation of the new formats began with the 1997-98 school year with the exception of soccer.

The vote prompted the first referendum of school principals in IHSAA history in September, 1996 and the membership upheld the action by a 220-157 count.

On May 3, 1999, as mandated by the original vote in 1996 that implemented the multiple-class format, the Board reviewed the initiative and rejected by a vote of 13-5 a motion to return to a single-class tournament in those sports. The Board had the option of retaining a multiple-class format, returning to a single-class format or approving a hybrid of the two formats.

In November 2005, Commissioner Blake Ress conducted a survey of the IHSAA membership in response to a non-binding Indiana House resolution asking the IHSAA to stage a single class basketball tournament. Results presented at the January 2006 meeting of the IHSAA Executive Committee show that 341 of the 400 member schools responded to the survey with just 10.6% (36 yes, 305 no) favoring the addition of a single-class basketball tournament.