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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

Basketball sectional isn't what it used to be ... thanks to the class system

Posted Friday, February 20, 2009, at 9:18 AM

The Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) boys high school basketball draw was conducted Thursday night and it brought back a lot of memories of the way it all used to be -- before we had class basketball.

I'm not going to condemn the system we have now other than to say it sure hasn't returned to its glory days of the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s.

Go to any gym on any Friday or Saturday night and you'll more than likely see some empty seats.

That was something you didn't see much in my growing-up era.

It could be a sign of the dire economic straits we're experiencing, but I think it's more than that.

We didn't need much stimulating or encouragement to go to a high school basketball game. It was the thing to do.

I think class basketball has contributed to the dwindling attendance and faltering interest in the sport in general at the high school level.

That's not the fault of any of the current generation of basketball players, who were probably in kindergarten or the first grade when class basketball started in the Hoosier state in 1998.

It's all they have known in their basketball playing days so they can not really relate to how it used to be.

The system was changed by school administrators and IHSAA officials as a way of making the postseason basketball tournament more equitable year in and year out for the smaller schools.

They contended it gave the "small schools" more of a chance to bring home a sectional, regional, semistate or state tournament trophy, which in theory was a good idea.

However, somewhere along the line the idea seriously deflated the mystic and overall appeal of high school basketball.

As we enter this 11th year of four-class basketball, I guess the people who supported the change to class basketball didn't watch the movie "Hoosiers."

They didn't see the look on the players' and fans' faces from the mythical community of Hickory when they won the state tourney crown.

It is a movie that defines the idea of the underdogs rising to meet the challenge of the big, more talented schools on the basketball court.

It was five players going against five players on the court and the size of the schools they represented didn't matter.

"Hoosiers" -- just like Indiana high school basketball of the past -- gave the audience something to cheer for.

It features a tough-as-nails coach with a heart of gold, a team of farm boys with dreams of making it to the state finals, and a small town pinning their hopes on their little high school -- the movie has it all.

Does any of that sound like any of our small Greene County teams of yesteryear?

I remember when having a basketball sectional was a big deal -- the only thing in our town for one week a year. Everywhere you went and with everyone you talked with -- basketball was the topic of conversation.

All the windows in the town's businesses were painted up, school hallways decorated in our school colors, posters and colored streamers were hung.

And, people went to the games.

I know some of that stuff still goes on today, but I think some of that luster has dwindled under class basketball.

When I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 1970s it was a time when you would be glued to your television set when the IHSAA did the tourney draw live -- most often on a Sunday afternoon in late February.

We didn't have to log onto the Internet or listen to a static-filled AM radio station to hear the draw.

It was a time when every non-basketball playing student in our high school would join in the pep block, dress up real crazy and lose our voices yelling for our team -- the Tell City Marksmen.

The girls in our school would dress up in corduroy jumper skirts that were adorned with our team mascot -- William Tell, and other hand-drawn creations.

I was involved in a male student group known as the "Bleacher Bums" and occasionally, some of our vocal and obnoxious rantings were directed at the men in the black-and-white stripped shirts who were refereeing the game. It created a very interesting and intense atmosphere to watch a basketball game.

I remember a couple of years after our sectional was moved from Tell City to Boonville -- a distance of about 35 miles -- that a group of us Bleacher Bums did a relay dribble of a basketball all the way from our hometown to the basketball gym before the sectional game tipped off to show our support for our team. Along the way, people lined up along the streets and highway to cheer us on. It was great.

School officials were also excited to excuse us from classes at noon on that day.

Do you think that would happen today?

It was truly a part of what became known across the country as Hoosier Hysteria.

But times changed.

It's really too bad that they had to tweak with something that wasn't broken, was making money and most of the fans loved it.

I am sure you have some favorite sectional tournament memories of your own and I would encourage you to share those with our readers.

Also, this might be a good time to get your VCR tape or DVD copy of "Hoosiers" out, dust it off and watch it again.

There is nothing like Indiana high school basketball.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I don't think the class tourney has anything to do with lower attendance at high school basketball games. Kids today have a lot more options at their disposal as to what they can do to entertain themselves on a Friday or Saturday night.

-- Posted by EggMan on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 10:11 AM

The class system has destroyed our local sectional, but some schools have benefitted. Poor Eastern Greene strung together quite a few 19-20 win seasons only to lose at the hands of BNL, Bloomington North, or some other large school.

I do miss the days Bloomfield and Linton was at Switz City, but class basketball isn't the only factor. Basketball is no longer the dominant sport. Football has taken over across the country and even in rural Indiana. Some schools are holding out, but even as their school board and administrators claim to be basketball schools...youth football leagues are flourishing in those same communities.

-- Posted by GCC on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 10:14 AM

To be honest I am not sure if the class system as caused the lower numbers, but it sure hasnt helped. An open field for the state basketball tourney set Indiana apart from other states! I graduated in 1990 and remember the excitement there used to be around the sectionals. Schools like Shakamak were happy to win the sectional, it was almost as important as winning a class title today, because today your not winning against the best, just the right size. How many out their remember the excitment many years ago when a little school named L&M made a lot of noise in the tourney, that was fun!!!

-- Posted by Jasonville43 on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 10:35 AM

Growing up in this great state, I can remember attending numerous high school basketball games - even at other schools other than my own.My friends and I would travel to L&M, Bloomfield, Washington, Bedford North Lawrence and Eastern Greene to see the likes of Jeff Oliphant, Tony Patterson, Damon Bailey, and Barry Lindsey. We didn't limit ourselves to just "our" school. As fans of Hoosier Hysteria, we prided ourselves on keeping abreast of how the "other" schools were doing as far as who the hot shooter was and who was the roughest player. Many a Friday night we would travel to these other schools acting as our own private scouts predicting plays and taunting the referees. Those were the years. I can remember sitting amongst a packed house in the old L&M gym at Lyons one Friday night when you literally could of heard a pin drop. I just happened to look up and to my "wonderful eyes did appear" Bob Knight and Gene Keady. They had came to scout Patterson and Oliphant. The crowd was so respectful and at awe that they let them do the job they were there for and when they left and were out of sight the crowd erupted into a stream of cheers. I graduated in 1984 from Shakamak and I like Jasonville43 can remember L&M making their mark in the tournament being touted as the new age "Hickory" from the movie Hoosiers. Even though I was out of high school at the time,I still made my treck to numerous high school games doing what I did as a student. Open Class ball made it fun and gave this state a reputation as being a tough state to play basketball in. Nowdays, the class tournament the boys and girls are playing in doesn't seem as competitive as before. I know a lot of people my age and older will agree. I believe us "older" folk will stand together when we say "there is no place in the world like Hoosier basketball."

-- Posted by mommagoose on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 10:52 PM

I say go back to the OLD HOOSIER HYSTERIA!!!

WRV Wolverines on the early 1990's

lose to jeffersonville by 1 point.

County rivals like Miners, Wolverines, Lakers, Cardinals, Thunderbirds.

The real Hoosier Hysteria!!

-- Posted by MinerDistraction on Sat, Feb 21, 2009, at 8:59 AM

What the IHSAA failed to take into account when instituting class basketball was that the possibility of winning the State Championships was not what drove and motivated the great majority of high school basketball teams in the single class era. The sectional was what drove Indiana basketball. The local rivalries that were incorporated into sectional matchups were what everyone played and worked for all season long. If you were one of the better teams in the area, the regional and semi-state were your eventual goals but winning the sectional was still a priority and not just out of the obvious necessity. Now class basketball has eliminated much of that. It is not nearly as evident in Greene County because, with it's lack of a single perennially dominant basketball entity, no matter what Bloomfield fans say (i.e. Vincennes in Knox County, New Castle in Henry County, Richmond in Wayne County) it is an area that never really needed class basketball. But what class basketball has taken away in addition to these great local bragging rights matchups, as evidenced by Linton and Bloomfield not even being in the same sectional as WRV, Shakamak, et al, is the measuring stick that was provided for the smaller schools when it came to competing against the big schools in a winner take all contest. Winning the Class A state championship is great. But how will those kids really know how good they were? They can attempt to theoretically surmise what they could have done against a Lawrence North, Bloomington South, or Muncie Central. But the days of Milan over Muncie Central are long gone and I really believe that the game has suffered for it. Being a coach of the smallest school in one of those counties that has that one of those dominant basketball schools (Henry county) I now understand to a better extent why class basketball was instituted. But that doesn't mean that it hasn't hurt the Indiana game and significantly altered the culture of the Hoosier state.

-- Posted by LetsGoPeay on Sat, Feb 21, 2009, at 10:57 AM

So Bloomfield winning 29 sectional titles didn't make them a dominant entity? WRV has 17 when you include those won by L&M, Switz City and Worthington. Shakamak has won 9 when you include Midland, Coalmont and Jasonville. Eastern has a total of 6 when you include Solsberry and Owensburg. The only school that is close is Linton with 21, but they've not won a sectional championship since 1982. If you want to branch out and include the teams that have played in the sectional lately Clay City has won a total of 8 when you include Cory. North Central has won a total of 9 when you include Farmersburg, Shelburn and Hymera. I would say considering the area Bloomfield has done pretty well with 29 sectional championships over the years. Most people consider Loogootee to be a pretty dominant school in the Martin County area and they have one less sectional championship than Bloomfield with 28.

-- Posted by EggMan on Sat, Feb 21, 2009, at 5:56 PM

Geez Egg, that's some pretty dominating research you've done there. You sure convinced me, "Go Cards".

Just curious, how many sectionals did the Coalmont Cardinals win? Did the Cory Appleboys actually win a sectional?

-- Posted by simmons on Sun, Feb 22, 2009, at 7:11 AM

simmons, it doesn't appear Coalmont won a sectional, but Jasonville and Midland both won at least one. Yes, the Appleboys won a sectional in 1947.


-- Posted by EggMan on Sun, Feb 22, 2009, at 9:26 AM

The old Switz City sectional was great. I remember walking around the top of the Switz City gym between games or when our team wasn't playing and checking out all the girls from the other towns. What a time to be alive.

-- Posted by RLU on Sun, Feb 22, 2009, at 10:14 AM

But Joe Hart prefers Class Basketball.......

-- Posted by BloomburgBanter on Sun, Feb 22, 2009, at 8:28 PM

I don't think class basketball has hurt the game as much as kids haveing more choices. Stay at home and play video games or go to the malls to waste time they think it is more fun. I still enjoy the game I started playing when I was a youngster at for the Coal City Colts, I was a Rambler and a Tiger. I followed the Braves and Eels as well as the Lakers Also the Bulldogs. I still enjoy going to the games watching or Refereeing them. It's a love that comes from within for Hoosier Basketball.

-- Posted by G.C.REF on Mon, Feb 23, 2009, at 9:38 AM

Aw! remembering the old days of the local sectionals.Living now in Morgan County, the old Martinsville Gym would host 12 teams and sectionals began on a Tuesday afternoon. BLOOMINGTON/UNIVERSITY/Unionville/Stinesville/Smithville/Paragon/Martinsville/Mooresville/Morgantown/Monrovia/Ellettsville/Eminence. Seeing friends from these towns-having something brag about til the next February rolled around. THE SNOWS? remembering all the snows and the year 1961 and people were stranded in the old gymn all night as they couldnt get home.The glory days are gone.Much as they are and have been in Greene.

-- Posted by alaskaman on Mon, Feb 23, 2009, at 12:27 PM

Don't forget the 1959 Odon Bulldogs who came within a field goal of winning the Evansville Semi-state. Almost the whole town drove in a caravan to the game

-- Posted by wjrambler57 on Mon, Feb 23, 2009, at 11:52 PM

The year 2010 is the 100th anniversary of the IHSAA tournament. Any chance that the IHSAA will bring back single class basketball to commemorate the anniversary?

-- Posted by macline on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 1:51 PM

In the movie "Hoosiers" the town of Hickory is fictious but the movie was based on the 1954 BB team from Milan and they did win the state crown.

-- Posted by wlechien on Tue, Feb 24, 2009, at 11:58 PM

"In the movie "Hoosiers" the town of Hickory is fictious but the movie was based on the 1954 BB team from Milan and they did win the state crown."

They were also a participant in the state finals the year before. That is one thing people tend to forget about Milan.

-- Posted by EggMan on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 8:07 AM

..Open class (one class ) was no fun for

Eastern at Bedford. Unless our fans bought

full session tickets we could not sit together

in a pep block. Some of you who have rosy

memories of days of yore never walked in our

shoes. Our success in the Levi Carmichael days

helped us get public support for a new school

and gym! Sports in a fair system can energize

a community and lift it up. You can't compare

the 1950's to today. It's apples and oranges.

Schools are not anything like they were then.

We now have a good fair system. Jack Butcher

even favors it.

-- Posted by isaacorlando on Mon, Mar 2, 2009, at 8:38 AM

I have to agree with isaaccorlando. Its unfortunate, but the days of L&M and Milan are over. The economy is forcing families to move out of these small towns. Some of these schools are on a year-to-year basis on whether they will even stay open or not. Let alone having a sports team competitive enough to compete with Ben Davis, Bloomington North, Etc. When one of these local teams is good enough to make it to the state level, they typically run into a church school that is highly known for recruiting. That is a tough enough contest in itself. Besides, some of the best athletes to come out of the area in the last 10 years may not have made as much of a name for themselves if they had not had a chance to compete late into the playoffs. Thats my 3 cents!

-- Posted by longbeard_23 on Mon, Mar 2, 2009, at 3:21 PM

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