Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Single class basketball = Indiana

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, speaks at an press conference last week at the Indiana High School Athletic Association as the group's commissioner, Bobby Cox, listens. The pair were announcing a series of public meetings to gather input on the hi
  • Lesley Weidenbener, Statehouse File
  • Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, speaks at an press conference last week at the Indiana High School Athletic Association as the group's commissioner, Bobby Cox, listens. The pair were announcing a series of public meetings to gather input on the high school basketball tournament. Delph advocates a return to the state's original, single-class tourney.

Last summer and fall, I asked for legislation to be drafted dealing with an array of education-related matters. Included in the legislation was a provision that would essentially eliminate class basketball.

The Indiana General Assembly has complete authority over all aspects of public education as written in Article VIII of the Indiana State Constitution. A regrouping of public schools into a private athletic association does not remove that authority, at least over those members that are public in nature.

On Organization Day last year, I was asked by the Senate Committee Chairman on Education to explain all provisions of my proposal privately to the Senate Majority Caucus, the Republican Caucus. I did and afterward we began to see more interest in the issue of basketball.

When my proposal was heard in committee, there was little debate over the Indiana General Assembly's authority to act, but much discussion as to whether or not it should exercise that authority.

Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox made the case that we should not. Subsequently, a mutual friend reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to engage in a dialogue and discuss further with the IHSAA.

This man was Lee Lonzo, my high school government teacher from many years ago. I did and this led to direct talks with Bobby and the IHSAA.

Commissioner Cox suggested we engage the public in a series of public meetings. He presented several locations and accepted some additional sites at my request. Dialogue with the public is a very positive development on this subject as I understand there was a feeling that such engagement did not take place when the original decision was made back in the late 1990s.

As a result of this development, I removed that provision from my legislative proposal. Needless to say, I was very pleased to join Bobby last week to discuss the fruits of those discussions and am thankful that the IHSAA led by Commissioner Cox has agreed to re-open the discussion of single class basketball.

We are going on the road to Milan, to Plymouth, to Gary Roosevelt, to Marion, to Connersville and other points to have a public dialogue on the importance of basketball to the state of Indiana. We want to hear from the community, coaches, student-athletes, and other stakeholders.

We are the land of John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Gene Keady, Brad Stevens, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Bobby Plump, George McGinnis, Calbert Cheney, Glenn Robinson, Kent Benson, Steve Alford, Scott Skiles, Damon Bailey, Jeff Gross, Jay Edwards, Lyndon Jones, Mike and Chris Heinemann, the Zeller brothers, Alan Henderson and I am proud to say Ben Gardner and Yogi Ferrell and many, many others.

Basketball is part of the national identity of the state of Indiana. And it must be respected as such.

It is my hope that the public turns out in overwhelming fashion and stands with me and demands that we restore a proud Indiana tradition that made legends and built our identity as a basketball state.

This is not about picking on smaller schools as I understand fully Bobby's concern. Bright minds should be able to find a path to address that concern.

The Indianapolis Star reported that attendance of this year's state finals has hit an all-time low since we have gone to class basketball.

It's time for us to consider a different path, a proven path, a return to single class basketball.

I am counting on the sports media to well publicize these meetings. I intend on being to as many as my private sector schedule allows. But I am counting on the public to have their voices heard.

I asked Bobby what he would do if there was overwhelming response to return to our single class tournament and he said he always encourages his members to listen to their communities.

That's all we can ask for in this case. If the will of the state is to let sleeping dogs lie, I will respect that position.

A note to my taxpayers: I will be using my own personal time for this effort and pay for my own expenses.

I love Indiana and her many traditions, including our deep and rich basketball mystique and history and will do all within my power to help her shine.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, was elected to the Indiana Senate in 2005 to fulfill an unexpired term and was reelected in 2006 and 2010. His district includes parts of Marion, Boone and Hamilton counties. You can follow him on Twitter @mikedelph and Facebook. He can be reached at 317-232-9488.

This OPED was adapted from remarks made last week at the IHSAA press conference and can be reviewed at mikedelph.com.

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