There is nothing in the Indiana High School Athletic Association bylaws that refers to the situation following the Griffith school bus accident on Saturday.
“I’ve been in the (IHSAA) office for 16 years and it’s never happened,” IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said Monday at the state finals media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “It’s very unprecedented and quite scary actually. The reality of the thousands of trips that our schools take across 20 sports … it’s amazing that it hasn’t happened before.”
The bus, carrying 27 passengers to Lafayette for Griffith’s Class 3A semistate basketball game against Marion, overturned into a ditch on Saturday afternoon on southbound I-65 after it was sideswiped by another vehicle. None of the injuries were life threatening. Administrators from Griffith, Marion and the IHSAA met on Sunday and rescheduled the game for 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Lafayette Jeff.
The winner of the Griffith-Marion game will play Evansville Bosse (19-10) in the state finals on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Following the accident on Saturday, the game was immediately postponed. Cox, who was attending the semistate contest in Huntington, made the trip to Rensselaer to meet with the Griffith administrators at Franciscan Health Rensselaer. Once it became apparent that Griffith would be able to make up the game, they began working on a potential date.
“I suggested Tuesday if at all possible but would consider Wednesday,” Cox said. “After I talked with our staff members, we decided Wednesday would be the best time to play the game. At the end, my consideration was for the players on that bus. That’s really the latest we can play that game and continue with the state championship.”
Evansville Bosse coach Shane Burkhart, a 1992 Marion graduate and former assistant at Marion, is in an unusual situation in that he’ll be able to scout his team’s state final opponent live on Wednesday.
“Your heart goes out to those young men,” Burkhart said of Griffith. “They were here at the state finals last year and ranked No. 1 for 90 percent of this year. You know you’re dealing with a great basketball team. Coming from (the accident) mentally has got to be really hard, even that first time getting back on the bus.”
Cox said he doubts the IHSAA can do anything in the future to prepare for situations like this one.
“You can’t write a script for this,” Cox said. “You just pray to God that it never happens again. It jolts you back to reality and how quickly it can be taken from you. When I first saw the picture of that bus, I thought I was going be going to a morgue and not a hospital.”
>> State finals connection: Lapel coach Jimmie Howell (Class 2A) and New Albany coach Jim Shannon (Class 4A) sat one table away from each other at Monday’s media day at Bankers Life.
Howell, making his second state finals appearance, and Shannon – his first – were longtime friends of Charlie Hughes, who dedicated countless hours as a volunteer for organizing youth basketball events. Hughes died in December 2014 at age 74 after suffering from a brain tumor.
Hughes organized school-based and AAU tournaments for many years. A June tournament based in Carmel featuring many of the top high school teams in the state is now named after him. Hughes was honored with the Virgil Sweet Award by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association in 2014 for his contributions to high school basketball.
“He did so much for Indiana high school basketball over the years,” Howell said of Hughes. “And without pay. We’re finding out many of the things now that he’s gone.”
Shannon, 55, is a native of Anderson, where Hughes lived most of his adult life.
“He was such an ambassador for basketball,” Shannon said. “He loved being around coaches and kids. He was everywhere. Every time I’d look up, there would be Charlie. It’s sad that he’s not here because I know he thought a lot of Jimmie Howell and I think he thought a lot of me, too. He’ll be missed at this one. What a great guy he was.”
>> State finals tickets: Tickets are $15 per session and can be purchased at participating schools this week. Any remaining tickets will be available on Saturday at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse ticket office.
>> On TV: All four state championship games will air live on Fox Sports Indiana. South Bend’s WHME-46 will carry the games for viewers in the Michiana area. A live stream is also available online at IHSAAtv.org.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.
Saturday’s state finals
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Class A: Bloomfield (26-3) vs. Liberty Christian (25-4), 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A: Howe (23-7) vs. Lapel (25-4), 12:45 p.m.
Class 3A: Evansville Bosse (19-10) vs. Griffith-Marion winner, 6 p.m.
Class 4A: New Albany (26-1) vs. McCutcheon (28-3), 8:15 p.m.
Join us to honor top high school athletes
The new IndyStar Indiana Sports Awards will honor the state’s top high school athletes. The April 28 event will feature a keynote speech by Andrew Luck, a sit-down dinner, video tributes of nominees and the announcement of the IndyStar Mr. Basketball award presented by the Indiana Pacers and the IndyStar Miss Basketball Award presented by the Indiana Fever — among other awards.
Athletes being honored and one guest may attend for free. Nominated athletes will be notified through their athletic department. A limited number of tickets are available to the public for $50. The event starts at 6 p.m.
For more information, to vote on the best fan experience award or to buy tickets, go to indystar.com/indianasportsawards.