lmost everybody that has grown up as a basketball fan, especially in Indiana, has seen the movie Hoosiers. The movie follows the dream season of a little school in Indiana, Hickory, in their pursuit of a state title.
The movie is a hit with so many because almost everybody can put themselves in the shoes of Hickory, a little-known underdog that ultimately overcame all of the obstacles in their way.
Hoosiers definitely has Hollywood themes and motives, but the movie is based upon a true story of Milan High School in 1954.
Milan had an enrollment of 161 students, and became the smallest school to win a single-class state tournament in the state of Indiana.
Milan was able to instill belief to the small schools across the state of Indiana that maybe they could overcome the odds; maybe they could capture the entire stateâ€™s attention, and maybe, just maybe win a state title.
In 1997, everything changed.Â Bloomington North won the single-class championship, and before the next season started, the IHSAA had done away with the single-class system and decided to go the route of four classes.
The decision by IHSAA did not come without controversy.Â Many people believed, and still to this day believe, that they had ruined something very special, and they would lose a lot of fans.
Itâ€™s hard to argue with that notion when you think back to the 1990 state championship featuring Damon Baileyâ€™s Bedford North Lawrence squad facing off against Concord.Â Over 41,000 people attended the game to see the championship, shattering the record for state championship attendance.
Fast forward to the 2012 IHSAA state finals.Â The morning session (1A and 2A championships) had just over 10,000 fans in attendance at Bankerâ€™s Life Fieldhouse, an arena that holds over 18,000. The evening session (3A and 4A championships) had just over 12,000 attend.Â The fans arenâ€™t as interested in a David vs. David, or a Goliath vs. Goliath.
However, if Yogi Ferrell had his small-school Park Tudor squad (2A state champs) face off against a high-enrollment school, I have a hard time believing attendance wouldnâ€™t have spiked.
Regardless of all of that, I have the solution to keep both multi-class enthusiasts and single-class advocates happy.
Outside of March, what is the biggest time of the year for high school basketball tournaments?Â The Holidays.
There are multiple holiday tournaments every year, and some of them bring in top-tiered teams every year.
Why not do away with Holiday tournaments, and instead play the four class tournament over Holiday Break?
Since there is usually not school during the break, the tournaments normal four-week system (sectionals, regionals, semi-state, state) could be consolidated to two weeks.Â The kids will have basically all day, everyday to play (minus Sundays), so double-headers and earlier start times could help with the time consolidation.
The â€œstate finalsâ€ could still be played on a Saturday at Bankerâ€™s Life, and the attendance figures would probably still stay pretty constant with what they have done in recent years.Â The little schools still have their chance at being the champions of their class, and it would be a neat couple of weeks for high school basketball.
Then, when March rolls around, the â€œrealâ€ state tournament would take place.Â The format could go back to what it was before 1997, and the entire state would be battling for the coveted title of â€œOutright State Championsâ€.
The buzz of the one class tournament returning would invite basketball purists from all over the state to start attending games again, and give the small schools the chance of doing what Milan did almost 60 years ago.
While the state championship is the ultimate goal, the match-ups in sectionals between small schools and large schools are still intriguing. When the small schools do the unthinkable, it is still a big deal, no matter if itâ€™s in the first round of sectionals or the state championship.
What is the harm with this system?Â Every year, high school basketball can be the talk of the town twice a year. The four class advocates stay happy because everybody has an equal chance at winning their class, while the one class fanatics go back to â€œnormalâ€ after fifteen long years of wishing and hoping.
While the system I have devised certainly would need a few tweaks, I think it is a good start.Â I would love nothing more than for Indiana to go back to a one class system, but it obviously cannot be done without compromise.