The Indiana High School Athletic Association is considering going back to a single-class basketball system.
State Senator Mike Delph introduced a multi-faceted education reform bill earlier this year; part of the bill remanded Indiana to single-class basketball, where schools of all sizes competed against each other for one state title.
Delph agreed to take that provision out of the bill if the IHSAA conducted a public study of the current class system.
Tuesday night, the IHSAA held its eighth of eleven public hearings on the issue at Plymouth High School.
Back in 1982, Plymouth’s basketball team won the state championship under the old class system.
“The whole run through the tournament, even though we were very highly rated, we were still the small town,” said Todd Samuelson, who was on the ’82 team. “It was pretty much a David and Goliath type of experience.”
During the hearing, Samuelson read aloud a letter from teammate and NBA star Scott Skiles, who couldn’t make it to the meeting because of a charity event.
“The underdog story in sports, business, and life is always special,” Skiles wrote. “People from the outside looking in clearly aren’t enamored anymore with Indiana high school basketball. I believe we have lost something special that was part of the fabric of our great state.”
Those in favor of the single-class system say it will help bring fans out to games in force again, pitting local rivalries against each other in sectionals and generating more interest.
But opponents of the single-class system say it isn’t fair; small schools often have fewer resources, which means they can’t compete with bigger schools like those from South Bend and Indianapolis.
“It gives kids from a smaller school the opportunity to still dream big,” said a Triton High School parent. “Come to a small town on a Friday night and see where the cars are parked. Cause they're parked at the high school -- that is the event.”
But members of Plymouth’s ’82 championship team would beg to differ. Samuelson and Skiles say the one-class system is part of what makes Indiana basketball so special – it teaches people to dream big.
“Whether you win a state title or not, it sets the stage to be your very best, not within one class, but competing against all sizes,” Samuelson said. “It really is a microcosm of what you're going to experience later on. It doesn't matter where you come from, it doesn’t' matter the size of your school. What’s the old saying? You can’t measure the size of someone’s heart and desire to compete or succeed.”
In addition to recording public comments, a straw poll is taken at every public hearing to see if people are for or against single-class basketball.
The IHSAA is also polling its members and student athletes.
All of the findings will be presented to the Board of Directors in June. They could make a decision this summer.