West Side could be regional host
June 12, 2012 11:14PM
Gary citywide athletic director Earl Smith listens as state senator Lonnie Randolph speaks Wednesday evening during a town hall meeting by the IHSAA on class basketball at Merrillville High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:38AM
The Answer Man returns with a question-and-answer session with IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox, covering a series of issues involving the football and basketball state tournaments.
Will the Michigan City basketball regional move to West Side?
Sounds like it could be a real possibility. Cox said the IHSAA is seriously considering the proposal by Gary city athletic director Earl Smith to switch sites. According to Cox, the recent success West Side had in hosting a sectional last year has made it a serious contender for the regional.
Cox noted that Michigan City does a good job with the regional but that the “costs are on the high side.” West Side did a good job keeping expenses down, Cox said.
Here is the key for hosting a sectional or regional: Make as much money as possible. Member schools get most of the revenue back from ticket sales from the regionals and sectionals. If the cost of extra security and school personnel is too high and the return on their investment starts to dwindle, that opens up the field for other players, assuming another school wants to host it. In other words, the IHSAA is all for a competing proposal.
The IHSAA almost always has to make the decision on which school will host the Class 4A regional in this area because there is never unanimous consensus from the schools — their criteria for staying out of the process. Cox said Merrillville, Valparaiso, Chesterton and Crown Point all have expressed interest in hosting it at various times.
Which tournament — football or basketball — brings in more revenue?
They both brought in roughly $500,000 this year. Football has been as high as $700,000 in recent years. The growth for net football revenue has nearly doubled since 2000, when it typically hovered in the $300,000 range.
Cox said football has one big marketing advantage over basketball. Many of the smaller television markets — Evansville, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne — show live football games on television during the regular season. Television is still the big gorilla for driving interest. Basketball is too disjointed for consistent television coverage, even in smaller markets. Cox said that many school administrators are resistant to TV games, too, because they’re afraid it’ll affect attendance. Attendance for both sports is driven by matchups and football is affected by the weather. If it’s too cold, too windy and too wet, fans won’t go to the game.
Is it true that interest in the state basketball tournament decreased in terms of attendance when the IHSAA switched to multi-class?
It’s impossible to really make that case. Attendance for the tournament had declined in every year since 1960 leading to 1997, which is the year Indiana moved to its four-class system. Cox said one of the driving factors for the decline is pretty simple: School consolidation. That’s when schools started to combine to save money and resources.
“Used to be half the people in town could walk to their sectional,” Cox said.
Doesn’t work that way anymore. He also said it’s true that over time the IHSAA had to compete with other sources of entertainment for its customers.
Does the IHSAA charge a membership fee to its member schools?
Not a penny. (The Answer Man was even badly misinformed on this one.) All its revenue comes from tickets and concessions sales and corporate sponsors. The IHSAA used to charge $1.50 per member, but it dropped the fee because it was too much trouble to collect. That strengthens its position that the Indiana Legislature should stay out of the basketball tournament debate.