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March 26, 2013

Editorial - March 26, 2013: Glory days discussion

The issue: The IHSAA boys multi-class basketball tournament, which crowned four state champions over the weekend.

Our view: The 1950s and ’60s — when everyone turned out for the high school basketball game on Friday night — are gone forever. It’s time we embrace multi-class basketball and move on.

For generations, Hoosiers took pride in the hysteria that swept the state during the annual high school basketball tournament.

When other states adopted multiple classes to give smaller schools a chance to claim a title, Indiana stuck with its single-class tournament.

The fans liked it that way.

Every Hoosier basketball fan grows up knowing the story of little Milan knocking off Muncie Central for the state championship in 1954. The story inspired the movie “Hoosiers,” which helped to further spread the legend of Indiana basketball.

The legend took a big hit, though, when the Indiana High School Athletic Association abandoned the single-class tourney in 1997.

Schools were placed up against schools of similar size, and the state began to crown four champions. Suddenly, schools that had never made it out of the sectional were competing for state championships.

Fans, though, have never really embraced the multi-class tournament, and many have complained for years that Indiana should go back to the good old days when high school basketball was king, when gyms across the state were filled to the rafters with screaming fans.

The IHSAA, with a push from the Indiana General Assembly, agreed last spring to a series of town hall meetings to talk about whether the state should go back to that single-class tourney that made Indiana basketball famous.

At 11 town meetings across Indiana, the public spoke up: It favored a single-class high school basketball state tournament over the current four-class version. Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox said more than two-thirds of the 514 votes cast (68.1 percent) were for the former single-class tourney.

That’s likely why state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, again introduced a bill early in this legislative session that would place a non-binding, statewide public question on the 2014 general election ballot, asking whether Hoosiers want a single-class or multiple-class postseason system for the annual IHSAA girls and boys basketball tournaments.

The fact is, of course, Indiana will never recapture the good old days. Life has changed, and folks now have many other things competing for their attention.

The 1950s and ’60s — when everyone turned out for the high school basketball game on Friday night — are gone forever. It’s time Leising and like-minded others embrace multi-class basketball and allow the rest of us to move on.

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