The future of high school basketball in Indiana would look more like its past if a majority of speakers at a public meeting Monday night in Jackson County had their way. Many in the crowd gathered at Seymour High School for the Indiana High School Athletic Association's fourth meeting on class basketball were older fans folks who reminisced about a time when boys and girls competed in a single class tournament and the games were bigger events.
"I officiate both big schools and small school," said Larry Louis of Seymour. "The games I go to now, I don't see the same enthusiasm that I saw in the '70s."
The public meeting was part of a larger effort to revisit the association's 1996 decision to move the state from a single-class tournament to a multi-class system that is based on school enrollment. The IHSAA is hosting a series of 11 public hearings and plans to survey student athletes as well as coaches, athletic directors and principals about the issue.
Each of the public hearings also includes a straw poll so that even those who don't speak have an opportunity to weigh in on issue.
The IHSAA agreed to the hearings after Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, authored legislation this year to reinstate single class basketball. IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox struck a deal with Delph to postpone discussion of the bill in exchange for the public hearings.
"I think basketball is a sport unlike any sport in Indiana," Delph said Monday night in Seymour. "Our single class basketball tradition made legends."
Most of those who testified reflected on their experiences and successes with the single class system back when they were in school.They argued that the games today are less competitive and the enthusiasm less than during games in the past. They remembered the "Cinderella story" situations when a small school would upset a larger school in a state championship.
But such upsets had stopped years before the IHSAA moved to a multi-class tournament.
A few coaches and school administrators came Monday to Seymour testify in support of the current multi-class system, saying it allows more students the opportunity to play in a state championship.
They argued that the sizes of schools today are too diverse to revert back to the old system.
Chris Brown of Sellersburg finished the night of testimony.
"There is merit for the multi-class system and there are more opportunities to compete," Brown said. The old system has "just never been fair to smaller schools."
Lauren Casey is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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