Whiteland boys basketball coach Matt Wadsworth remembers a simpler time when the sectional draw could best be described as can’t-miss television.

The unveiling of brackets accelerated pulses from Merrillville to Medora — an exhilarating event filled with anticipation and dread as broadcasters alphabetically worked their way toward the host location of your rooting interest.

Think today’s Selection Sunday for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the difference being that every Indiana high school sanctioned by the IHSAA gets invited.

“When I was young I can remember going to church on Sunday and heading over to my grandparents’ house to watch the sectional draw,” said Wadsworth, a 1997 North Daviess High School graduate who experienced only the single-class postseason format growing up.

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“For the most part, I think people aren’t watching the draw live,” Wadsworth said. “They are content to find the brackets online or through Twitter.”

“I don’t think there’s any question a lot of the hysteria is gone because you don’t have the matchups you used to. The excitement of playing your crosstown rival doesn’t exist anymore,” said Indian Creek girls basketball coach Dan Burkman, a 1983 Southport graduate who remembers even first-round sectional games being sellouts at Southport Fieldhouse.

“I tell my players on Monday who they’re playing (in the sectional).”

The elephant in the room regarding whatever societal indifference exists now in comparison to previous eras is the multiclass tournament format introduced the 1997-98 season.

This isn’t to imply Sunday gatherings — be it area coaches, family members, etc. — to watch the draw no longer exist.

They do.

Center Grove girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders has members of his team meet every year to watch the draw at the home of a coach or player. Sunday’s telecast will be no exception.

The same goes for Indian Creek boys coach Derek Perry.

“Every year that I’ve been here we’ve gotten together at someone’s house to have some food and watch the draw together,” said Perry, who’ll take in the boys postseason draw the afternoon of Feb. 22.

“I don’t think it’s as big a deal as it was 15 or 20 years ago,” Perry said. “Class basketball might have something to do with it, but I feel it’s just a change in kids.”

And technology.

It used to be the TV show featuring the IHSAA commissioner at the time plucking pingpong balls from a hopper was the lone method of learning your program’s sectional fate.

Now both the girls and boys shows are televised by Fox Sports Indiana, carried on radio stations throughout the state and available via web-streaming by IHSAA.org.

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox, a Carmel High School graduate who was a college sophomore when the 1977 Greyhounds cut down the nets inside Market Square Arena, understands the sentiment that more may actually be less.

“I think the tournament draw for our student-athletes, coaches and parents still holds great interest,” Cox said. “I do believe it is somewhat diluted today since we televise it (twice) and broadcast it on the radio. I also think the variety of activities out there for folks causes distractions.

“Finally, technology is such that at any moment, a fan can get their information instantaneously, so sitting through an hourlong presentation is not as captivating.”

Franklin boys basketball coach Brad Dickey remembers team meetings at the home of his coach at Tipton High School, Larry Angle, while a Blue Devils player in the late 1980s.

“It’s more rare now to have team meals and gatherings for the draw,” Dickey said. “Technology is partly to blame, and just our busy schedules. I still enjoy the draw, and our players still pay attention to it.

“But it clearly isn’t as high a priority as it used to be.”

At a glance



When: 4 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox Sports Indiana

Webstream: IHSAAtv.org

Radio: IHSAA Champions Network


When: 4 p.m. Feb. 22

TV: Fox Sports Indiana

Webstream: IHSAAtv.org

Radio: IHSAA Champions Network

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.