Musings of a Hoopster
By Shawn Martin
FIVE CLASS PROPOSAL
A group of high school athletic directors in Indiana is considering a proposal to move to a five-class system in several sports, mainly to alleviate enrollment discrepancies, especially in the largest class.
In an article in Friday’s (February 18, 2922) Indianapolis Star by Kyle Neddenriep, the high school athletic director’s association is looking at classes that would be marked by a set enrollment number instead of the current system of dividing each class equally by the number of schools competing in the tournament in the four-class sports of baseball, basketball, softball and volleyball.
There is a push by some schools that are on the low-end enrollment wise of the current 4A and the upper end of the current 3A to make the enrollment numbers gap less.
Carmel has a little more than 5,000 students in grades 9-12. The largest current 3A school is Kankakee Valley with just under 1,100 students.
The athletic director’s association is collecting data – and has been for a few years – and will meet at their normal meeting in mid-March where this idea could be discussed. It eventually could be presented to the IHSAA Board to be considered for implementation.
Personally, I am more concerned about several other subjects that vastly impact the student athletes, the coaches, and yes, the fans of high school sports here in the Hoosier state more than the enrollment gap.
Even if you took and separated the top 16 enrollments in what is now 4A, the difference between the largest and the smallest in that class would be significant.
I think maybe actually going the other way – to say three classes – would solve more problems than this proposal. I do like the “hard” number splits, and I don’t really think that having equal numbers in each class is necessary or even good.
We could alleviate the problems with travel distances during the Sectional round of the state tournament by making Class 3A (largest schools) a 64-team class. All Sectionals then could be four teams and you could play Friday and Saturday. Even if a Sectional was to spread out for a team to make a Friday night start (unlikely) that particular Sectional could be done all on a Saturday (like the Regional) and it would be the same for all four schools in that Sectional.
Having the remaining schools divided into two classes, eliminates a lot of travel issues for teams and fans as more schools will be clustered closer together. A win in that many natural rivals have a better chance to be grouped together in a Sectional.
Whether a team has to play a similar number of games to win a state championship is a complete non-issue and irrelevant. Even back in the single class days, I always thought it would of been fairer to have 32 four-team Sectionals and 32 eight team Sectionals rather than two teams in each Sectional getting a bye (huge advantage in many cases).
I don’t think we could come to a decision that would please most people on seeding Sectionals, so I don’t see that as an issue. From a coaching standpoint – and I’ve coached almost as many years as I have just been a fan – if I have to play the other best team (and most times you do), I’d just as soon play them first where I can totally focus on them for the week and a half to two weeks after the draw. The fans may not like it as well, but that is how a coach feels. At least this coach.
I think the issues with the constant changes some schools make every other year from one class to another, and one Sectional to another is more problematic than the enrollment discrepancy that seems to be the single-minded focus behind this proposal. I think we reclassify too often.
A lot of that has to do with the incredible numbers of mostly small, brand-new schools that have been started over the last decade and a half or more after the state legislative bodies changed school funding and entities entered the business of education. That is a whole different subject, but it has affected the smaller classes dramatically and pushed up in class, schools of all sizes, which has affected all classes.
There is no perfect way of doing things – and that most definitely includes a single class format.
I think reclassification should happen no more than every four years – which was the original timetable when Class Sports began during the 1997-98 school year. We only refigure Congressional and other districts every ten years – and those decisions can be far more impactful – and those demographics change far greater than 9-12 enrollment in schools.
Keeping a consistent Sectional lineup, I think greatly improves the overall product the Sectional provides. All the Sectional gate receipts (profits) are divided equally among those schools participating in that Sectional. So, creating natural rivalries within a common group where everyone kind of knows who the teams are and where you are playing the Sectional every year is good for ticket sales.
I also think that looking at and adjusting to current conditions should happen more often than every 25 or 30 years. No program or business model is so perfect that it doesn’t need tweaked every now and then.
Like I said, there are no all-encompassing right answers to every question – the things I have suggested here all come with their own drawbacks and issues – but I think the tweaks that need to be made to the tournament structure in these sports are different than what this particular proposal seeks to do.