While the drama of the annual girls high school basketball tournament draw remains as potent as ever, the manner in which we view it continues to evolve.
Tonight’s event on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court is being web-streamed on IHSAAtv.org – a noticeable departure from recent seasons when the bracketing for every one of the 64 sectionals aired live on Fox Sports Indiana.
Now the $10 million question: What size audience will it attract?
Coaches old enough to remember the tradition of tournament draws, girls and boys, televised at noon on a Sunday are doing their best to change with the times.
“I told my players earlier this week that it’s not on TV and they were not really pleased. Having it at 8 o’clock on a Monday pretty well did in any potential of getting together as a team,” Greenwood Christian Academy coach Alan Weems said.
“The atmosphere associated with (a televised draw) was big. When you try to explain the way it was to younger people, they don’t understand.”
Inconsistency in both starting times and days hasn’t helped.
Since 2010 the girls draw has started at four different times. There’s been Monday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 4 and 7 p.m., and now back to Monday, with IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox pulling the first pingpong ball from the hopper shortly after 8 p.m.
Cox said tradition dictates there be a show regardless whether it’s televised or streamed live.
“Times change, and I don’t think people realize those productions are expensive. We are in partnership with Fox Sports, which has other broadcasting obligations, too. Fox Sports Indiana’s major partner is the (Indiana) Pacers, so if there is a Pacers broadcast that needs to occur, we’re going to be moved to a different rung,” Cox said.
“Draw shows are important and they’re nostalgic, but the reality is we can draw that thing here in the office, put the brackets out in a press release and be done with it. But we like to promote the tournaments, and we like to have that show.”
Assistant commissioner Chris Kaufman said web-streaming makes sense in that the IHSAA has made a concerted effort in recent years to do much of its programming on the Web.
He also claims television ratings for draw shows in recent years have been somewhat disappointing.
Kaufman said this happens in part because so many fans tune in shortly before their favorite team’s sectional is about to be drawn and turn the channel the minute it’s over.
“I’ll definitely watch it myself. Typically the IHSAA has the pairings online, and I print it out and hand copies to my players at the end of practice the next day. People in general would be surprised to know how many girls even knew who we drew before that,” Indian Creek coach Dan Burkman said.
“Even if I wanted to watch as a team, it’s going to be pretty late by the time they get to Sectional 27.”
Tournament draws in another era enticed programs to gather as one at a local eatery, their high school or maybe the residence of a coach or player.
It’s here Center Grove coach Shawn Sanders is something of a throwback. Members of his program will watch tonight’s girls draw as one, arriving at a local restaurant by 7:30.
“We’ve done this the last two or three years, so it’s become a tradition. Counting freshman and junior varsity players we’ve got 29 players and six coaches, so there’s 35 people right there. And as many parents that want to show up,” Sanders said.
“Anytime you can do a little team bonding is good.”
TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS SHOW
When: 8 p.m. tonight
Radio: IHSAA Champions Network (Local stations, Indianapolis WFNI-107.5 AM, 1070 AM).