The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

January 13, 2012

Class basketball good for region

WASHINGTON — As the nation attempts to crawl out of a recession, and state governments are forced to re-evaluate every funding option, changes in education seem to be drawing the most attention.

However, with truly important issues preparing to be debated, in the best tradition of political grandstanding, Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, has introduced a bill tying the IHSAA’s multi-class basketball tourney to education reform.

It has been roughly 15 years since the switch to the multi-class system, meaning one full generation now knows nothing except class sports, and a second is not far behind.

So why Delph decided this was worthy of legislative action is beyond comprehension. The debate long ago faded into the woodwork, as many communities all over the state truly got a taste of Hoosier Hysteria. The class system didn’t kill an interest in high school basketball — it has enhanced it.

Since March 2002, Washington has made four trips to the state finals, Barr-Reeve has made three, Loogootee’s boys and Washington Catholic’s girls made one each and North Daviess has knocked on the door twice at semistate. Each appearance has been special and each community has had an opportunity to take a swing at the pinata. Class basketball has been very good to the Daviess-Martin area.

I imagine, as Sen. Delph panders for votes in coffee shops and diners, there is no “old chestnut” that quite gets the back slapped quite as quickly as a call for a return to “the good ol’ days.”

But were they really that good?

Would the North Daviess players of the last few seasons say they would trade their Class A semistate appearances for the one regional appearance Plainville had well over 50 years ago in a non class system?

If you truly want to kill off Hoosier Hysteria, ask the people of Madison, Salem, Bunker Hill, Alfordsville, Garrett or Gas City if they were planning on attending a state final game between Hamilton Southeastern and North Central every year.

Did the rest of the state beat a path to the Carmel/North Central single class tennis final? How many people do you know who traveled to Carmel’s 54-0 5A football win over Penn? Judging by the Sagrin computer rankings, nine of the top 10 football schools were all 5A, meaning that if that model transferred to basketball, what do you think the state finals would look like?

Has anyone asked Sen. Delph which small school he thinks will compete with the 4,800-student Carmel Greyhounds?

If bigger means better, then the largest schools would probably out-draw our Class A schools — which they don’t.

People have a ton of entertainment options available to them today, changing the priority level of high school sports in most people’s lives. When smaller communities have teams that they can support all the way to Indianapolis, everyone is a winner — the schools and communities, the IHSAA and those who provide goods and services along the way.

About 15 years ago the IHSAA made a change that was not popular with everyone. Was it perfect? No, but in hindsight it seemed to work pretty well for us.

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