Ever since the state's culture-altering decision to switch to class basketball, I've greeted every move by the Indiana High School Athletic Association with skepticism at best, disdain at worst.
So my first response to the IHSAA's latest move – implementing a points system that would bump the most successful prep sports teams up a class for two-year periods – was to look for what's wrong.
That didn't take long. There are negatives, no question. A team could have a two-year run of greatness due to a convergence of talent, get moved up a class and be destroyed in the postseason for the next two years. In that case, it sounds like punishment for brief success.
“If you have a great senior class that graduates and there's not much stepping up to fill the void, then you'll have a group of kids that are not prepared to play at that level,” Canterbury boys basketball coach Scott Kreiger said. “There are inherent positives and negatives either way. I do believe the IHSAA is making a good-faith effort to make it as fair as possible for as many as possible.”
So the question becomes whether the positives outweigh the negatives.
The more I consider the change, the more I feel the IHSAA is improving, although far from perfecting, the system.
Here's how it works. Each school in each team sport (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball) will receive points for postseason success and be reviewed over a two-year period. If a team scores six or more points over two years, it moves up a class for the next two years.
It's one point for each title with a maximum of four points per season for a state title. In other words, if a school's baseball team wins back-to-back regional titles, that's four points. So it wouldn't move up a class. But, if a school won two semistates in a row, that's six points. It moves up.
The system is an answer to some of the complaints, particularly in football, that the same schools are dominating the tournament every season. Perfect example: Bishop Luers.
Luers has won three straight Class 2A state titles, so it would have moved up to Class 3A if the points system had been in place. Can it compete at 3A? With last year's team, no question. That Luers team lost one game (and had one forfeit) over two years. Those Knights beat Snider. They could handle 3A.
Will they be able to handle 3A after Jaylon Smith graduates? They'll probably have to find out. The scoring system will be implemented for the 2013-14 season, with the results considered from 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Since the Knights won state last season (four points), they would move up if they win a regional this fall.
Canterbury's girls basketball program faces a similar situation, having won four of the last five Class A titles. Incidentally, if a team moved up a class and scored six points over the next two years, it would move up another class for two years.
Kreiger, who recently switched from coaching Canterbury's girls team to coaching the boys, said he understands the reasoning behind tweaking the system.
“I'm not against the idea,” he said. “A couple of those years, I would have liked to have challenged at a higher level to see how good we were even though there are really good teams in the 1A tournament.”
Kreiger said one negative is trying to establish tournament rivalries if your team is constantly moving from one class to another.
“It gets to where you feel there's a constant juggling around of the system,” Kreiger said. “I think that's what makes people uncomfortable.”
The IHSAA also is implementing a Class 6A in football, dividing up the state's biggest schools by enrollment. It tabled some other proposals, including seeding the sectional pairings.
Putting in place the points system is the biggest change, adjusting classes not just for enrollment, but for a two-year period of high-level success.
“We expected something like this,” Bishop Dwenger football coach Chris Svarczkopf said. “It was part of the IFCA (Indiana Football Coaches Association) and we're in support of it.”
Dwenger would not move up, even if it won the Class 4A title this year, since it did not win a sectional title last fall. But there have been years where it would have been in line.
“You want to be as good as you can be,” Svarczkopf said. “You don't back down from any challenges.”
Is the new system perfect? Far from it. Some school in some sport will be bumped up with the cupboard bare.
On the other hand, it could make for some better matchups, too. Not to pick on Luers, but if the Knights are winning the Class 2A football title every year in dominating fashion, it would be good to see if they can take their success to a new level.
“These are all good-faith efforts to manage the system and make it as fair as possible for as many as possible,” Kreiger said.
I'd rank this latest IHSAA move with the same word, different meaning: It's fair.