While opinion is mixed among area athletic directors and coaches over the IHSAA’s new tradition factor, the creation of a sixth football class received unanimous approval from the three area programs it will most affect.
Harrison, Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon all currently compete in Class 5A, which will be split in half to form the sixth class. Schools in 6A and 5A would essentially receive a first-round tournament bye before beginning play in four-team sectionals during the same week the other classes are playing sectional semifinals.
Based on 2010-11 enrollment figures (the most recent numbers provided by the IHSAA), Lafayette Jeff was the state’s 25th-largest football-playing school. Under that scenario, the Bronchos would be part of the new Class 6A, while McCutcheon (42nd) and Harrison (53rd) would be part of the new 32-team 5A.
But Lafayette Jeff coach Andy Kennedy said the school’s enrollment has continued to drop, possibly taking it out of the top 32 in terms of size. That could mean the county’s three largest programs would presumably form the nucleus of a four-team sectional in 5A when the format is enacted in the 2013-14 school year.
“We voted yes for it for the last two years,” McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger said, referring to straw polls held by the Indiana Football Coaches Association. “It’s going to keep us playing schools that are closer to our enrollment as opposed to schools that are two times our enrollment, three times, like we are.”
In recent seasons, Tippecanoe County’s three Class 5A football programs have shared a sectional with state powers like Carmel, Indiana’s second-largest high school, and Hamilton Southeastern, which ranks in the top 10.
Based on the 2010-11 enrollment data, the state’s largest school, Ben Davis, had approximately 3,300 more students than the smallest 5A school, Fort Wayne Wayne.
Kennedy said he was in favor of the change even if Jeff didn’t immediately drop to 5A. At worst, nothing changes for the Bronchos.
“Since we’re landlocked, it’s going to happen,” Kennedy said of Jeff’s boundaries. “It’s just a question of ‘when’ for us.”
Harrison coach Tony Martin was initially in favor of the sixth class. Yet his enthusiasm waned slightly when he realized the big programs moving to 6A because of their size would be replaced by potentially superior teams who will bump up due to the tradition factor.
“I’m in the middle,” Martin said. “I thought it was great until I figured out that the tradition factor will bump them up. This is what the 5A schools never wanted.”
The executive committee rejected a proposal that would have seeded the top two teams in each sectional based on the Sagarin computer ratings.
“If you want to take the Sagarin rating (for football and basketball), that’s easy,” Cox said. “But how are you going the seed the volleyball or softball or baseball or soccer. The moment you say yes to football, the rest are coming down the pike saying, ‘Why not seed our tournament?’ You can answer for a couple but you can’t answer for the majority.”