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Vote on postseason format changes looms

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By this time next year, local high school basketball teams could be adjusting to more change in the state tournament format.

On Oct. 2, the Indiana High School Athletic Association Executive Committee will vote whether to modify its girls and boys postseason basketball tournaments or preserve the system as it is.

A proposal by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) would, if passed, place Indiana’s largest 64 high schools, by enrollment, into 16 four-team Class 4A sectionals beginning the 2015-16 school year.

Two semifinal games and a championship would all be played on a Saturday.

Meanwhile, programs in Classes 3A, 2A and A (approximately 115 each) would be distributed as evenly as possible into 16 sectionals in each classification.

Each sectional would include either seven or eight teams and be played as they are now in a Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday format.

The current postseason arrangement has an equal number of high schools in all four classes.

If the new format is approved, Center Grove, the state’s 17th-largest high school based on data collected for classification for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, would remain part of Class 4A, along with Johnson County rivals Whiteland (52nd, 1,725) and Franklin Community (53rd, 1,713).

However, Greenwood (94th, 1,136) and Indian Creek (188th, 584) would drop down to Class 3A and Class 2A, respectively. Edinburgh (317th, 287) would be one of the larger Class A schools, with Greenwood Christian Academy (387th, 135) among

the smallest.

Walt Raines, who’s in his 26th season as girls varsity coach at Franklin, has witnessed numerous changes in the postseason structure, most notably the switch to multi-class basketball beginning the 1997-98 school year.

“It’s one of those things that for the smaller 10 of those 64 (Class 4A) schools it’s not the greatest deal,” Raines said. “It wouldn’t be a big change for us when it comes to the teams, but the sectional would be in a different format.

“We’ll take whatever they give us and go out and compete the best we can.”

Greenwood boys coach Bruce Hensley, who’s in his 26th year with the Woodmen, would welcome the new format.

“I definitely think it would benefit us,” Hensley said. “We’re at the lower end of the unlimited class right now and are already the smallest school in our conference.”

‘In the bigger picture ...’

Those high schools straddling the fence between classes appear to have the most to gain or lose. Indian Creek girls coach Dan Burkman, for one, is not a fan of the proposal.

“From what I read, I am wondering why we would do this,” Burkman said. “I think there are current inadequacies with some smaller schools competing against larger schools, but the new classification proposal doesn’t really seem to address this in my opinion. For us, personally, 2A might not be a bad thing.

“But in the bigger picture, I’m not sure what this accomplishes.”

To Burkman’s point, Ben Davis still has 3,183 more students than the 64th-largest high school (Fort Wayne Wayne); the projected top Class 3A school (Jennings County) has 897 more than the smallest (Calumet).

Current figures show Indian Creek would likely be the state’s eighth-largest Class 2A program, and North Central (Farmersburg) would be the smallest with an enrollment of 340.

This is subject to change once the IHSAA reveals enrollment projections for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

The most noticeable changes for large schools are removing the massive discrepancies in enrollment — the largest 4A high school, Ben Davis, has 3,580 more students than New Palestine, the smallest — and requiring only two wins to advance to regional competition.

“The new proposal has a lot of added benefits for the Johnson County schools. The added benefit for 4A schools is the two-game sectionals. And Greenwood and potentially Indian Creek will have the opportunity to move down a class,” Whiteland boys basketball coach Matt Wadsworth said.

“As a coach, you will not be able to totally understand the impact the change will have on your program until you see the sectional alignments. It would be nice if the local 4A sectional is still made up of Whiteland, Franklin Central, Franklin and Center Grove.”

‘Hard job to balance’

Wadsworth claims not to be a supporter of the one-day sectional, his feeling being that Friday night semifinal games would draw better crowds than those played Saturday during the late morning and early afternoon.

New Franklin Community boys coach Brad Dickey, who served the previous seven seasons at Tipton High School, where he was 125-48, insists changes to the current system aren’t always in everyone’s best interest.

“It is a hard job to balance the competition and make adjustments to our state tournament,” Dickey said. “The most unfortunate consequence of ending the single-class tournament is the compulsion to constantly evaluate and change the tournament. As for fixing the perceived competitive problem, the challenge lies in the private and mega-enrollment schools that look and play like Division I college teams.

“The state points at enrollment as the prime factor, and there is a correlation. But really, the problem is the number of talented and powerful athletes that seem to gravitate to the perennial powers.”

Edinburgh coach Drew Glentzer is sold on the proposal simply because it automatically puts every one of the state’s Class A programs into a seven- or eight-team sectional.

At the moment, that isn’t the case. The Edinburgh Sectional is one of only two eight-team sectionals in Class A to go along with two seven-team sites, 10 that have six programs and two carrying only five teams.

“I’m very much in favor of it. I don’t like that we’re one of the few eight-team sectionals in the state. That was my only argument,” Glentzer said. “In terms of the schools in our sectional, I don’t think it’s really going to change anything.”

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