By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — The Indiana Basketball Coaches Association has come up with a new proposal for the state boys and girls basketball tournaments and the goal just may be fan interest.
Under the plan, the state's teams will be divided into three classes based on enrollment. There are many differences between this plan and the one currently in place beyond just the number of classes.
First, there is no attempt to keep the number of teams in each class the same or even similar in number. There will be fewer teams in 3A than in 2A or 1A. Secondly, those classes will be further divided into divisions, again based on size. Teams from the different divisions wouldn't play each other until the regional level.
Lapel's Jimmie Howell, who is a state championship-winning coach, the school's athletic director and a member the IHSAA Board of Directors, thinks the fans could be the target of this proposal.
"I think it is an attempt to recreate some excitement for the tournament," said Howell. "I think the tournament has lost a lot of interest over the years. I think the (proposed) setup is better than what we have now. I think it has a lot to do with trying to get more fans in the stands."
Last year's attendance was one of the lowest since the beginning of class basketball in 1998.
All but three of this area's schools would be in 1A. Anderson would be in 3A, the bottom division, while Pendleton Heights and Frankton would be in 2A, though in different divisions.
"I think there are some positives and some negatives, like most things," said Frankton boys basketball coach Brent Brobston, whose Eagles were just a last-second shot from winning back-to-back sectional titles at Lapel last season. "It will be interesting to see what discussions come out of this. I haven't decided for myself whether I favor it or not."
He understands the need state-wide to beef up fan interest, but he's not as convinced it is needed in this area.
"We play in one of the most competitive and best attended sectionals around," said Brobston. "We enjoy playing in that sectional."
Anderson coach Joe Nadaline sees a potential problem for his team in that he feels like the Indians are on an island. "I am not sure what it means," he said. "It depends a lot on who is in our sectional."
There are supposed to be eight four-team sectionals in both divisions of 3A. But a look at the teams in the bottom division of 3A with the Indians finds only Westfield and Kokomo in the general vicinity of the Tribe. The next closest team is likely Richmond.
"Where is the centrally located place for those four teams, the Wigwam?" laughed Nadaline. "I don't know that our gym would be big enough. You could use the Muncie Central gym (the Fieldhouse). That would be a great facility and no team would have home court advantage.
Of course there is a movement afoot in Muncie to close the Fieldhouse.
Even though the idea has been proposed by the coaches association, the IHSAA is getting involved right away.
"The ballots will be sent out by the IHSAA," said Howell. "I think that way nobody can accuse the coaches association of trying to have an impact on the outcome."
A mandate from the coaches could mean the proposal would get some serious consideration.
"If they would get 70 percent or so positive responses, then I would think the coaches would come and have a meeting with the IHSAA," said Howell. "Then it could be brought to the board of directors."
There is no timetable for when this all will happen but the earliest any changge tio the format would likely take place would be the 2015 state tournament.