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Gorches: Busy summer for region sports

Updated: August 7, 2012 6:34AM



As a sportswriter, when you’re on vacation for a week, you can miss a lot of news. When you’re off for two weeks and sitting two times zones away for the better part of that time, it can seem like an eternity.

The last two weeks of Northwest Indiana sports weren’t boring, which is surprising since the middle of the summer isn’t usually so exciting.

But local sports has become a year-round news cycle. So even though I was keeping up with stuff from afar via the Internet, some old-fashioned catching up was still needed.

The biggest news might have been the IHSAA’s announcement that it is going to a sixth class in football starting in 2013. Region teams that will head to the 32-team 6A are Lake Central, Crown Point, Merrillville, Portage and Valparaiso.

The 6A and 5A postseasons will start a week later, with four-team sectionals — the 64 teams in 5A have been split into two classes — and it will be as difficult as ever for those five local 6A teams to reach the state final.

But at least the four local 5A teams in a sectional together — Munster, Chesterton, LaPorte and Michigan City — are in a much better position to make longer postseason runs.

Heck, Chesterton could be looking for its second straight sectional title, since the Trojans should contend for their first football sectional this season.

The other part of the IHSAA ruling that was approved is the “success factor” for teams that dominate their respective class in certain sports. It’s a substitute for implementing some sort of multiplier, like the one in Illinois.

Teams in class sports earn a point for sectional, regional, semistate and state titles. If a team accumulates six points in two years, it will move up a class.

Football isn’t the only sport this affects, but you can bet it was the driving force behind it. Lafayette Central Catholic (1A) and Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (2A) have each won three straight football state titles. Indianapolis Cathedral (4A) has won two straight titles and four of the last six. All three of those teams are likely to be affected by the success factor, though each might also succeed at the next subsequent class.

In volleyball, Muncie Burris won 14 straight state titles in 2A before not reaching the state final match last season. Marquette had won six straight 1A titles before a lull the last two years.

In softball, Andrean has been dominant the last four years, reaching the 3A state final three times and winning the title last month. You can bet the success factor will affect some of those programs in upcoming years.

As a whole, I have no problem with the success factor, even though I was brought up Catholic and it definitely will hinder those schools from dominating as much. But I’m more of a defender of Catholic school academics than athletics, since the latter is supposed to be a bonus, not the be-all-end-all.

Coaching carousel

The local football coaching movement continued with Dan Klimczak stepping down at Wheeler, and expected to take the South Central athletic director position. This move has been rumored for the last couple years, so it’s not a complete surprise. But overall the movement of so many high-profile coaches in this offseason has been a little shocking.

Klimczak joins Russ Radtke (from Griffith to New Prairie), Wally McCormack (going to Portage after a year away from Hobart) and Kevin Enright (from Homewood-Flossmoor assistant to head coach after Chip Pettit took over as principal) as some of the bigger names taking or leaving jobs.

It makes you wonder who will be leaving next season, since it’s becoming a pattern in recent years.

Disturbing trend

Those who aren’t big sports fans probably have no problem hearing about schools looking to cut athletic budgets. But it’s a big red flag to sports enthusiasts, and shouldn’t be an option.

The Valparaiso School Board is looking to eliminate a $3.2 million budget deficit with cutbacks in sports, as well as arts and music. The latter two items should disturb non-sports fans even if they jump for joy at hearing about athletic cuts. These are all programs that kids shouldn’t have to go without.

The decision led to one of the best quotes I’ve read in a while: “I feel like my ox is being gored,” said Valparaiso boys basketball coach Joe Otis, who said he will have 38 percent of his staff eliminated.

I don’t even know what that quote means, but I like it.

Happy campers

On a more positive note, it’s nice to see former region high school athletes coming back home to hold camps for kids.

Two of the latest to join this trend are E’Twaun Moore, the Boston Celtics player who held a two-day basketball camp at his alma mater, East Chicago Central last week, and Zack Novak, the University of Michigan grad who will hold a hoops camp starting Monday at Chesterton High School.

They join a list of other region athletes to give back to the community with camps — Glenn Robinson, Tommy Finn, Brandon Moore and Luke Harangody come to mind.

Hopefully the trend continues and guys like Robbie Hummel (Valparaiso) and Mike Neal (Merrillville) can hold camps at their former schools.



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