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State should consider ‘Hickory Compromise’

My Opinion
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer

There’s not a school in Harrison County that hasn’t felt the positive effects of multi-class high school basketball.
There’s the 2006 South Central Lady Rebels and 2005 Corydon Central Lady Panthers that made 1A and 3A appearances, respectively, at the state finals at Conseco Fieldhouse (now Bankers Life Fieldhouse).
Were it not for a last-second whistle in regulation ‘ and a Beech Grove phenom named Katie Gearlds ‘ at the Class 3A Southport Semi-state in 2003, the North Harrison’s girls’ basketball team would have made it to Conseco. A 23-foot dagger from the hands of Barr-Reeve’s Josh Pielemeier in overtime at the 1A Seymour Semi-state is all that kept the Lanesville’s boys’ teams from the downtown Indianapolis venue in 2007.
Corydon’s boys have won numerous sectional titles and taken on some of the best of the best at regional, even winning one in 2003.
South Central’s boys broke a 28-year sectional drought and cut down the tourney nets at Springs Valley in 2002.
Folks in those communities could write an encyclopedia’s worth of memories of their favorite teams. But they could also play the ‘what if’ game, thanks to the multi-class format.
What if South’s 2006 team had to face Corydon, a team that handed the Lady Rebels their worst loss of the season at 17 points, in the postseason?
What if Jeffersonville had another crack at North Harrison in 2003, having lost the opening game of the season by only five points?
Would Lanesville’s 2007 club have stood a chance in the sectional against New Albany, which went 21-4 that year?
Last week, after a staredown with the Indiana High School Athletic Association, State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, blinked: on the morning of the vote, he pulled a measure from SB84 that could have returned high school basketball to the one-class system.
‘Because the IHSAA is willing to study the possibility of restoring single-class basketball in our state through an internal review and hold hearings statewide to give Hoosiers the opportunity to share their views on the issue, I have agreed to remove the language from my bill,’ Delph said. ‘I believe multi-class basketball takes away a unique part of our state’s heritage, and it’s time we take a second look at returning to a single-class tourney and let the public have its say.’
If passed, Delph’s legislation would have restored single-class basketball by banning a school corporation from participating in an interscholastic athletics association if the boys’ or girls’ basketball teams are divided into classes.
Bobby Cox, commissioner of the IHSAA, said that his organization hopes to examine a return to the old format in the coming weeks and months by weighing how Indiana communities and the IHSAA membership feel about the topic and reflect their desires.
Pardon my skepticism.
The way Hoosiers told the IHSAA that multi-class was not what they wanted was through gate receipts.
When the state went to the four-class format in 1998, the end result in attendance for the state tournament was a drop of about 170,000 people, including a 97,000 drop for regionals and nearly 28,000 for the state final.
By 2000, the total attendance was down nearly 400,000 fewer fans. However, the numbers have held mostly steady since 2001.
Through it all, the IHSAA kept its blinders on and stayed the course with the multi-class system, now to the point that it’s all student-athletes and their parents know.
The IHSAA listened to its principals when the vote to change the format was made in 1996, but, since then, it’s not listened to anyone else who wanted change. Not the state coaches’ associations nor the public through surveys that were handed out to gauge the public’s opinion on the change.
From this corner, the best option for the state tournament would be to have four classes in the sectional and regional rounds, then re-draw the remaining teams for a three-game (two semi-finals and final) semi-state and three-game state final the following week. It’s been called the Hickory Compromise, but I just call it a better solution: the small schools get their shot at sectional and regional bliss and a chance to possibly knock off a larger school, and the purists get their one state champion.
There are still enough people around who remember how great the tournament used to be and how great it could be once again.
We just hope the IHSAA listens.

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