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Hutton: Indiana hoops tourney will get a facelift eventually

Bowman's Antonio Pipkholds State Trophy locker room after defeating Linton-StocktBankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday March 23 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times

Bowman's Antonio Pipkin holds the State Trophy in the locker room after defeating Linton-Stockton at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 23, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 2, 2013 6:29AM



As word has leaked out about the new proposal being circulated among Indiana Basketball Coaches Association members for the basketball tournament, I think it’s important to thank State Senator Mike Delph from Carmel.

I heard numerous administrators and coaches tell the Indiana legislator to butt out when he scheduled the town forums to talk about the current system and reverting back to the single class system a couple years ago.

Those meetings did something that some administrators and some of the coaches, at the least the ones that had been around since 1997, hadn’t bothered to do.

They shed light in a public way on how awful the current four-class system is. Do you know why so many people still yearn for single class basketball? Because the current four-class format was dead on arrival the day it was instituted 16 years ago.

It’s terrible. Always was. The numbers never added up.

It made sectionals uneven and unfair. Regional sites were changed willy-nilly. And generally, fans lost interest and they lost their voice in this debacle, which was the worst part of all of it.

They have responded by staying home in droves. Last year, only 22,820 fans watched the state championships — the lowest number ever. Total attendance was 385,024 — another record low. I am in no way advocating a return to the single-class system, but I’m glad the IBCA has finally started the conversation about how the tournament needs to be changed to regenerate some enthusiasm for a product that has been neglected for way too long. They can no longer bury their head in the sand about the issue.

Briefly, the new plan drops a class and splits the three remaining classes into two divisions — for the sectionals only. Sectionals are four teams — on Friday and Saturday.

The divisions are combined at the regional level. There would be 64 teams in Class 3A, 160 in 2A and 181 in 1A. There would more regional games for A and 2A. The state finals would be three games.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the proposal yet, but I’ll say this unequivocally: Something should be done and I’m all in on this for the simple fact that it should be the start of tinkering with the system until they find something that works.

Already, I’ve read about coaches who oppose it. That’s fine, but if somebody is against it, they should have a remedy in hand and be ready to sell it. It’s time for reform and it’s time to get the fans interested in the game again. Everyone needs to take responsibility for that.

Lowell coach Nate Richie isn’t hugely supportive of the proposal because it pushes the Red Devils into 2A. He’d still like to play the big boys. He’ll still take it if it’s the best plan out there.

“Anything is better than what we have,” he said.

One of the underlying issues about making any change now is the de-seeded animosity that some of the large schools feel toward the smaller schools for driving the move to class basketball in 1997. It still lingers today.

There is still bitterness that some vocal small school principals and athletic directors outmaneuvered the majority of coaches and players (60 percent of the coaches and players actually favored single class basketball) in a bit of procedural hanky panky to get to four classes.

The major roadblock with the proposal is the small schools. How are they going to respond to making it easier to win a sectional, but more difficult to win a state title? And will they support change? My unscientific survey of the new proposal was positive.

River Forest coach Jason Quigg liked it. He wants the four-team sectionals and he’s willing to take the trade off of having uniform sectionals and a more treacherous road to the state finals, particularly if it “appeases the traditionalists” who still yearn for single class basketball. Later this month, the membership votes on the proposal. This one is way too unpredictable to call at this time, but at least this much is clear.

Changes will be made eventually. It’s about time.



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