Landscape shifting isn’t limited to college football.
Beginning next fall, five highly successful private school football programs will be forced to compete above their designated class enrollment.
Indianapolis Cathedral (Class 4A), Indianapolis Bishop Chatard (3A), Ft. Wayne Bishop Luers (2A) and Lafayette Central Catholic (A) all won at least their third straight state championship, with the latter two winning their fourth state crown in a row this past weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But thanks to the IHSAA’s new two-year tournament success factor all four of those schools will be bumped up a class next season. The success factor, approved in June, assigns a point system to postseason victories for all sports. Teams earn one point for a sectional title, two for a regional title, three for a semistate title and four for a state title. If a school accumulates six points in a two-year cycle, it receives a bump in class for the next two school years.
The new rule also adds a sixth class for football by splitting 5A in half; the top 32 schools in enrollment will be in Class 6A, the next 32 will be 5A.
The Indiana Football Coaches Association submitted its own tournament success factor to the IHSAA in June, but it was voted down 18-0 by the IHSAA’s executive committee. The executive committee approved commissioner Bobby Cox’s two-year proposal 16-2.
“I like the success factor because it is applicable to the entire membership. It addresses success in specific sports rather than identifying one specific type of member school and randomly moving that school into a different classification,” said Cox, who named the IHSAA’s eighth commissioner in 2011. “My hope is that the success factor will continue what was the initial goal of classification and that was to create a more congruent blend of schools for competition.”
A fifth football program, Indianapolis Scecina, is slated to move up to 2A by virtue of its back-to-back semistate championships. The Crusaders won their second straight sectional championship by defeating Eastern Hancock 35-19, but have lost in the Class A state finals two years running.
Scecina coach Ott Hurrle, who has coached Indianapolis’ first archdiocesan Catholic high school for 22 years, said he’s not bothered by the move to 2A, but he was troubled by the process that resulted in the two-year, points-based system.
“The IFCA spent four years investigating, debating, going through different scenarios and really felt that we came up with a solid program. We sent it out to coaches, athletic directors, principals and it came back with 90 percent or higher approval,” said Hurrle, who is 141-108 at Scecina. “So I think all the coaches were caught off-guard when the commissioner said we were going to two years and a points system. I don’t think there was a lot of thought put in on the IHSAA’s part when they adopted the program.”
Though EH coach Pat Echeverria’s squad was felled by Scecina and the Crusaders’ class bump is the Royals’ gain, Echeverria remains a proponent of the four-year model, noting that two years of success can be a possible byproduct of one talented class of students. However, Echeverria said he would feel differently if he were in Scecina’s position.
“If I was a team that was consistently winning and getting to the state championship, I would want another challenge,” said Echeverria, 9-13 through two seasons in Charlottesville. “I’m indifferent to the whole process. We should be able to compete with anybody in our class.”
Mt. Vernon coach Doug Armstrong has spent time coaching at both public and private schools. The second-year MV coach won four state championships coordinating Cathedral’s defenses from 1991-2000. Armstrong was also the head man at New Palestine from 2002 to 2008.
“I don’t think it’s a big concern to anybody, personally. I think those (private) schools relish the challenge. I think they’re just going to go into the next class and have the same goal of winning state,” Armstrong offered. “For us, we’re just going to play who’s there. We’re not going to complain to anybody if this is fair or if that’s fair.”
Armstrong pointed out that although seven-time defending regional champion Cathedral is moving up to 5A, Chatard — which beat Cathedral 21-7 in October — will likely move into MV’s 4A regional bracket.
“You can twist it or move it however you want it, you’ve got to play who’s there,” he said. “One team is going to survive. That’s the way athletics go.”
There hasn’t been much competition lately at the state finals. The average score of the five state championship games the past three years is 35.8-16.8 (2012), 39.2-7.6 (2011) and 30.8-14.6 (2010).
The effect of the yearly blowouts seems have resulted in decreased attendance.
The IHSAA went to its current format of playing the Class A and 2A title games on Friday and the 3A-5A title games on Saturday in the 1995-96 school year. IHSAA figures put this past weekend’s attendance at 27,371, the first time championship weekend turnout dipped below 30,000.
In fact, since attendance peaked at 56,050 in 2008-09, turnout has declined in each year. The loss of 7,467 spectators from 2011 to 2012 marked the second largest drop in since the two-game/three-game format was instituted.
“The attendance at all IHSAA events in team sports is directly related to two items: weather and matchups. Rather than say a lack of competition, I would say attendance drops when the same schools year after year appear in the championship,” Cox explaind. “My observation this past weekend as that the two best school crowds were Hamilton Heights and Mishawaka. Mishawaka had not played in a football state championship since 1973 and Hamilton Heights had never played before. When you have new schools reaching the state finals, you have new energy and enthusiasm.”
Recently, the most successful schools have been private schools, which have won the last five Class A titles, last six 2A crowns and past three 3A and 4A championships.
“Hopefully the (tournament success factor) brings some excitement to the state championship,” Echeverria offered. “Overall, it’ll be a good thing for high school football in Indiana.”
COST OF SUCCESS
>>The following football programs receiving a class bump next season. Points earned are as follows: sectional title (1 point), regional title (2 points), semistate title (3 points) and state title (four points). Six points are required to moved up a class. New class designations are for 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.
School ‘11 pts ‘12 pts Total Old Class New Class
Cathedral 4 4 8 4A 5A
Chatard 4 4 8 3A 4A
FW Luers 4 4 8 2A 3A
Laf. Catholic 4 4 8 A 2A
Scecina 3 3 6 A 2A
>>Attendance figures for state championship weekend since the IHSAA moved to holding the Class A and 2A title games on Friday and Class 3A-5A title games on Saturday.
Year Friday Saturday Total
1995-96 15,633 25,072 40,705
1996-97 12,593 27,211 39,804
1997-98 12,655 30,682 43,337
1998-99 14,269 26,085 40,354
1999-00 13,035 25,579 38,614
2000-01 15,137 27,744 42,881
2001-02 14,753 26,807 41,560
2002-03 10,891 27,787 38,678
2003-04 10,954 27,419 38,373
2004-05 12,931 26,148 39,079
2005-06 12,339 31,964 44,303
2006-07 10,603 29,395 39,998
2007-08 12,739 38,478 51,217
2008-09 15,370 40,680 56,050
2009-10 14,512 31,650 46,162
2010-11 10,809 28,832 39,641
2011-12 11,736 23,102 34,838
2012-13 8,828 18,543 27,371