IHSAA basketball tournaments to have new format

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Beginning with next winter’s postseason, the structure of Indiana’s boys and girls high school basketball tournaments will be different.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association announced Thursday it is making changes to the boys and girls basketball tournament format.

In the final meeting of the school year, the IHSAA voted 15-2 to make the regional round a single game and the semi-state round a two-game format beginning with next winter’s tournaments. The previous format of a two-round regional and a single semi-state game had been the norm since 2002.

Area coaches/athletic directors have differing opinions on the new format.

Eastern Hancock boys basketball head coach Aaron Spaulding, who serves as the Royals athletic director, said he may end up liking the switch, but initially is not in favor of it. He was one of those in the minority vote of administrators and coaches.

According to Thursday’s press release sent out by the IHSAA, Commissioner Paul Neidig conducted a survey of principals, athletic directors, boys and girls coaches and 73.4 percent of the 781 that responded were in favor of the change with at least 70 percent in all four groups approving.

“I voted against it (in the survey),” Spaulding said. “I have a different viewpoint, because I am also athletic director. A lot of times it adds a big expense. When we go to a semi-state, we’re traveling, we can have hotel fees, those types of things. Sometimes it adds an expense when it is not necessary.”

The new format is similar to what is already done in the IHSAA softball state tournament, which has a one-game regional heading into the semi-state round.

Spaulding used the example of the Royals softball team that went to the 2013 semi-state, hosted by Forest Park High School, a three-plus hour drive from Charlottesville.

Eastern Hancock played Indianapolis Scecina, a school less than 30 miles away.

“I understand there may be a level of excitement involved, but if they were going that route, I would prefer a traditional Final 4, like we had in single class,” Spaulding said. “You could play at various venues on Friday night then play the state championship games at Gainbridge (Fieldhouse) on Saturday. You would have a Final 4 weekend as opposed with the semi-state, you have an Elite 8 weekend.”

The coach/AD added, “We’re always going to make it work (if we are in that situation). “I may end up thinking it’s the best thing ever once it all pans out.”

Mt. Vernon’s Julie Shelton also wears two hats with the Marauders. She has led the girls basketball team to a number of long tournament runs, including trips to the regional round in each of the last two seasons. She is also an assistant athletic director.

Shelton said she sees both sides. She understands the challenges of additional expenses, but also sees it as a great experience for players.

“I see pros and cons. Until you experience it, I can’t really say I am for it or against it,” Shelton said.

“As an assistant athletic director, I can see it on the money side and why you would be against it, but when I start thinking back to when we beat Roncalli in the first game of the regional two years ago, if we would have made it one more week, what a neat experience that would have been for the kids to say they made it to the semi-state. When you lose in the regional final nobody really knows you did anything besides win a sectional.”

Shelton continued on issues involving cost, but that can be secondary if the team keeps advancing.

“Travel and cost seem like they would be a lot bigger (with the new format),” Shelton said. “The cost of winning a state football championship was huge (for Mt. Vernon this past fall), but well worth it.”

New Palestine boys basketball coach Trent Whitaker, who will add assistant athletic director to his role with the Dragons for the 2022-23 school year, said he didn’t have a strong opinion either way on the IHSAA’s format change.

“The goal is to win a state championship,” Whitaker said. “After you win a sectional you have to win four games, whether you play 2-1-1 or 1-2-1 it doesn’t really matter. That’s the way I look at it.”

Whitaker did add that the semi-state weekend is always the same weekend as the first weekend of NCAA tournaments. “Hopefully, we’re not battling people not going to watch the semi-state because they want to watch IU, Purdue or Butler if they are in the tournament,” he said.

Additionally, the IHSAA release stated, regional pairings will be drawn and announced at the same time as the traditional sectional pairings with two regional championship games being played at the same site and potentially from different classes.

For example, had the new format been in place last year, there would have been the possibility, in boys basketball, that Class 2A sectional champion Eastern Hancock would have played at the same site as Class 4A sectional champion Mt. Vernon.

Another new wrinkle includes conducting an additional blind draw and announcing the semi-state pairings the day after the regional championship games on IHSAAtv.org.

“We really like the potential of a high-energy atmosphere at the semi-state level with a chance to advance to the state championship games the following week at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the home of the Pacers and Fever,” Neidig said in the release. “This new format will double the number of teams who play a week longer in the tournament and should create a lot of excitement in those communities and will be financially beneficial for those communities that serve as host sites.”

Tournament host sites will be approved by the Executive Committee later this fall.

Other information from the meeting included:

• The Executive Committee formally approved full membership for Dugger Union, Evansville Christian and Purdue Polytechnic. Those schools become officially eligible to compete in IHSAA state tournaments beginning this fall.

• The committee approved modified restrictions on Indiana schools competing against schools from beyond the 300-mile travel limit. IHSAA schools will now be able to participate against out-of-state schools from beyond the 300-mile limit as long as they are in good standing with their state association, the venue is within the 300 mile limit, and is sanctioned by the NFHS and IHSAA. Also, Indiana schools may now host out-of-state schools in Indiana from beyond the 300-mile limit as long as they are a member in good standing with their own state association and the event is sanctioned by the NFHS and IHSAA.

• A proposal to raise ticket prices in several sports including football and basketball sectional games from $6 to $7 was also approved as well as raising an officials stipend by $10 at all levels as well as bumping their mileage from 25 cents to 50 cents per mile.

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