The 1954 state championship trophy is proudly
displayed in the lobby of the Milan High School
Mike Perleberg-Eagle 99.3
(Milan, Ind.) - It’s one of the most heated debates in Indiana.
Should the high school basketball tournament revert back to a single class structure, as it was 14 years ago?
State Senator Jean Leising thinks so. The Republican from Oldenburg says she plans to file a bill which, if it becomes law, would essentially require that the state’s public schools play in a single class tournament.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Leising’s Senate Bill 84 would only allow school corporations to “participate in an interscholastic athletics association only if the association does not conduct boys’ or girls’ interscholastic basketball games in which the teams are divided into classes.”
Currently, the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s boys and girls basketball tournaments are divided into four classes based on a high school’s enrollment figures every two years.
If approved, the law would go into effect July 1, 2012, in time to affect next year’s basketball season.
One of the biggest and most common arguments from single class supporters is the run made by small school Milan in the 1954 state tournament. Coach Marvin Woods’ team – the inspiration for the movie “Hoosiers” – upset Muncie Central to claim the state title that year.
Fifty-seven years later, Josh Blankinship is the head coach at Milan High School.
“Could it go back to one class? Who knows. If it did we’d play it as is and have just as good a chance as anybody else to get to the state finals,” Blankinship said. “I would be in support of it just because I think it would be a good experience. That’s what Indiana high school basketball was about for so many years.”
Part of that experience was the atmosphere both inside the gym and out during tournament time. Everybody agrees attendance at regular season and postseason basketball events was better in the single class era.
"Now you've got schools playing across the state," Leising said. "The parents go, sure, maybe some of their closest friends and family, but the whole community doesn't go anymore."
The IHSAA issued a response to Leising’s proposal Wednesday stating the governing body of Indiana school sports is against it.
"As a privately funded, education-based, voluntary organization, the member schools of the IHSAA and its Board of Directors, which is made up of school administrators, have repeatedly rejected returning to single-class tournaments in team sports. The most recent survey in 2006 indicated only 36 schools (10.6 percent) favored a single-class tournament,” the IHSAA’s statement said.
"The Association office has not received any requests from the membership to go back to single-class tournaments in any sport. Generally speaking, class sports have accomplished what they were intended to achieve. The current tournament formats allow more schools and more student athletes to advance through our various state tournaments and along with countless communities experience the excitement of advancement to the higher levels of tournament series events."
Senate Bill 84 will be heard for the first time on January 4, 2012 before the House Committee on Public Policy.
Similar legislation has been proposed before. In 2000, Rep. Eric Turner (R-Gas City) proposed a bill mandating a single class tournament during Christmas break in addition to a class-divided tournament at the end of the season. The bill was defeated in the Indiana House 74-19.