Conversations a good start
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org May 26, 2012 11:34PM
IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox listens to Bowman Academy head coach Marvin Rea as he offers comments about class basketball Wednesday evening during a IHSAA town hall meeting at Merrillville High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:27AM
They were going to have the IHSAA meeting with Bobby Cox and Mike Delph in the stately auditorium at Roosevelt High School on Thursday, where there is row after row of wooden-back chairs lined up symmetrically in the grand old room.
Ah, but the place would’ve looked like a cavernous outpost with just 10 people from the public — one of them Gary athletic director Earl Smith’s baby sister — in attendance.
One of the attendees, John Williams, a Tolleston graduate, couldn’t make it up the stairs anyway, so they opted for the more comfortable community room. Only one person in the audience looked to be under 50 — a girl who arrived with what appeared to be her mother. She waited patiently, saying nothing while the grown-ups — every one of them except one — talked.
There was going to be a strict time limit for speakers — two minutes total — but the get-together turned into a casual give-and-take between Delph, Cox and the people in the audience.
It was a feel-good night for Delph — a great evening to end up batting .500 in the region. He missed the Merrillville meeting, where opposition to the return of the single-class system was strong. On that night, not one person of the nine people that spoke supported a single-class tournament, either because they viewed a renewal of the old way of playing the tournament as impossible given the current climate of the state, or because they really, truly wanted multi-class basketball.
For the people at Roosevelt, there was also a sense of realization, that despite their desire to turn the clock back on the tournament, that it wasn’t going to happen, no matter how many nostalgic state tournament memories they could conjure up from when they played.
There was also a small glimmer of hope that Delph can be some sort of miracle worker here. That he can be the Milan for all those fans who are longing for yesterday.
Delph’s public position is that he wants the IHSAA to come to an internal decision to return to a single-class system because it’s part of the cultural identity of the state. He has some weak ammunition to back up his argument. Sixty-eight percent of the public favors single class, according to the straw votes they have taken at the 11 meetings.
It’s a long shot at best, like trying to make one from halfcourt with the buzzer about to sound.
Everybody with knowledge of the process knows that the power rests with the principals. They are the ones that actually vote the views of the schools they represent. They won’t give up on multi-class basketball and frankly, despite the diminished interest in the tournament, they shouldn’t. It’s not about us and our fading memories of what high school basketball used to be like in Indiana.
It’s about what the future holds for a generation of kids who could care less about the drive-through meetings that Cox and Delph are holding.
In this view, the motivation to return to single-class basketball is selfish and self-serving.
It’s about players and coaches and adults from that era — the one that ended in 1996 — wanting to wallow in the past. Delph even concedes that this issue is as much about him and his desire to do what he believes is right rather than a response to the demands of his constituents.
The meetings, however, aren’t a complete waste.
They need to tweak the tournament — I have advocated for three classes instead of four — but doing anything where they didn’t add classes would be beneficial.
The move to make the IHSAA more accountable to the public — at least they are listening — is welcome. Frankly, school administrators and basketball coaches in the state are guilty of not working in concert with the IHSAA to try to monetize what was once it’s greatest asset — the state tournament.
Delph won’t make that half-court shot here, but at least people are finally starting to consider possibilities other than the tournament we already have. That with a little effort and creative energy, they can recapture the magic they used to have, in a different way.