Delphi senior-to-be Cole Murray has never experienced a basketball state tournament that wasn’t divided into classes, and that doesn’t bother him.
“Personally, I like the class system right now,” Murray said. “It gives the smaller schools a chance to win and succeed and spread the success to more kids. A 1A or 2A (team) going up against a 4A, most wouldn’t stand a chance at all.”
It appears the multi-class experience will not change for the coming generation of Indiana high school basketball players.
In announcing the results of a study that showed a majority of the state’s school administrators, coaches and players support class basketball, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said the organization does not plan to change the state’s four-class tournament.
Cox’s study was born of a compromise between the IHSAA and State Senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel). In exchange for the study, Delph agreed to withdraw a bill that, if passed, would have prohibited school corporations from participating in an interscholastic athletics association that conducted boys and girls basketball tournaments divided into enrollment classes.
The IHSAA polled principals, athletic directors, coaches and student-athletes as to whether they favored multiple classes or a single-class tournament. Just under 55 percent of coaches and at least 72 percent of the other three groups supported multiple classes.
“In light of the results of this latest analysis, there is a lack of compelling evidence that if present, would cause the Association to consider plans to alter the existing tournament structures for boys and girls basketball,” Cox said in his report. “The staff’s continued focus will be to make administrative improvements to the current format that will best serve the member schools and their patrons.”
The state was torn when IHSAA instituted class sports beginning with the 1997-98 school year, ending Indiana’s traditional single-class basketball tournaments. But the student-athletes polled for the IHSAA study would have never participated in the single-class system, and most would have no memory of it.
Fountain Central coach Jason Good, a member of Rossville’s last single-class sectional champion, said he was “in the middle” on the issue but ultimately voted for a return to single-class.
“I loved it when we played,” said Good, who coached the Mustangs to a Class 2A sectional title this past season. “The kids who are playing now, this all they’ve ever known. I don’t really see it as different, especially for the smaller schools. I think the sectional atmosphere is still great.”
Some have cited the scattered geographical pairings of the class sectionals as contributing to a drop in attendance and enthusiasm. Some in the current generation of Indiana basketball players don’t share that concern.
“I actually like going and playing different places, because it’s more of a challenge for us,” Lafayette Jeff incoming junior Aliyia Kind said.
At 11 town hall meetings across the state, 514 straw poll votes were cast. In that vote, meant to gauge the opinion of fans, 68.09 percent favored a return to the single class format.
But opinion was reversed among the other four groups, as 76.82 percent of principals, 79.29 percent of athletic directors and 72.16 percent of student-athletes said they favored a multi-class tournament. Only 54.97 percent of basketball coaches favored multiple classes.
McCutcheon coach Rick Peckinpaugh voted in favor of returning to single class, and he said most of his players did as well. But he’s not sure it needs to be an all-or-nothing question.
“I really wish they would go to two classes,” said Peckinpaugh, entering his 34th season as a head coach. “You could still keep the proximity of the sectional opponents but not cause the problems of the smaller schools competing against big ones.”