As a Hoosier who loves the game of basketball and all sports, each year I voice my thoughts about that time when those five men down at ISHAA took away from us the opportunity to have a single state champion.
They stuck the knife in so deep that the pain lives on the game of basketball at that time, when the sport took a nose-dive into a puddle of wishes that it had never happened. Sure, it is great that there are many champions according to the size of the schools, but what did it say to each school as to the greatness of having that championship?
What it did was to make a school a champ among champions and it told them that they won it because they did not have to play any schools larger than them. It told the players that they have their own championship that could not be won under the old system. It told the fans that here you are, back your school because the chances of winning a championship have been made better because they were not good enough to play the big schools and have that chance to win it all. And if you look at the attendance count in basketball games since the system was changed, you will see that it has gone down a lot and so the schools suffer from low ticket sales.
Will we ever get back to the one-class system in Indiana? It would be great if it did but it does not seem possible to happen in our lifetime. It has only been a short few months since the season was over and the classes crowning their champs, but I would be willing to bet that half of the fans and sports writers, as well as some of the players themselves, cannot tell you who won the final games this year. And probably they would have to go to a record book to tell you who won last year’s final games. I can’t because it did not make that mark in our brains like it used to when we had only one champ.
So here is what I will say about Indiana ISHAA basketball and the future of it here in the basketball capital of the world: By going to the class system, we told our young high school children that they are not equal to those players at the big schools. We told our fans that we should stay within our boundaries of school size and go only to games that can be won by that school. And we told our schools that if we want to be better, then we have to get bigger.
Now politics are sticking their noses into it when someone should have done the right thing and challenged it that first year. I transferred to a small school in 1953 and I found out that the players on that team wanted to play the big school at tourney time because they felt they were good enough to take the big school down.
You have five players on each team on the floor and all 10 of them feel they are good enough to win the game. The ISHAA took away that thought and planted in those players’ minds that the size of the school made the difference and not the hearts of the players. You don’t tell the players that they can’t compete with any other team but those within a class according to size of said school. You don’t tell the parents that their children can’t compete because they go to a small school. What you can do is to tell each player and fan that once they are out on that floor, it is player versus player, heart against heart, and you play to win. You don’t tell them they can’t win the game.
• Ray “Uncle Ray” Day is a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com.