The Indiana Basketball Coaches Association's new three-class proposal for high school basketball has been met with mixed feelings by area coaches.
The revamped system would switch to three classes from the four-class model that has been in place since 1998, when it replaced single-class basketball.
Area coaches have begun to receive surveys regarding the switch to gauge interest. If there are enough in favor, the coaches could make a formal proposal to the Indiana High School Athletic Association next spring to change the format for both boys and girls competition.
For some, it would be a welcome change.
“I would say I am in favor of it, and the biggest reason is because I trust the people on the (coaches) board,” Bluffton boys coach Kevin Leising said. “I am sure they looked and looked and wanted to come up with the best situation.
“I have no doubt it addresses some of the issues (we have). I think it is better than what we have.”
The proposed plan would create three classes based on school enrollment, with each having two divisions. The divisions would stay separated through sectionals then combine in the regional round onward.
Class 3A would have four four-team regionals; Class 2A and A would have eight four-team regionals.
Coaches believe this system would better serve schools in staying in their geographical areas, thereby helping attendance at postseason games while preserving certain rivalries.
The IHSAA reported a class basketball record-low attendance in the boys tournament a year ago, with 22,820 fans at the state championship and a total tournament attendance of 385,024.
Leising favors the plan, which would help hold a rivalry his program has built over the years.
“We had a great rivalry with Bishop Luers and we each had success. Now they aren't even in our sectional,” Leising said, referring to Bishop Luers' bump to Class 3A. “Between that and the geographical problem … I don't know what the answer is, but I think it is good they are trying to address the issues.”
Not everyone is as enamored with the idea as Leising is. Despite having to play sectionals at Huntington North and Marion in recent years, North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq does not see too many advantages in the proposed system.
“Personally, I am not interested,” Khaliq said. “If we are going to do anything, let's go back to single class.
“I understand the travel issue, but the attendance issue is being affected in my opinion by the loss of single class.”
Khaliq also points out the fact that the number of sectional winners in the new system would swell to 80.
This past season, 64 sectional champions were crowned.
“It feels like the whole concept is, 'We want to limit the amount of teams that end the season on a losing note,'” Khaliq said. “Are you serious? It takes the luster out of winning.”
Traditionalists would love to see the return of single-class basketball, but the newest proposal appears to try to address the problem of dwindling postseason attendance while also crowning as many sectional champions as possible.
“At the end of the day, to me the overwhelming support from coaches would be for single-class basketball, but no one is willing to look at that,” Khaliq said. “A lot of principals and athletic directors would vote against it … but it would be tremendously beneficial and I bet you would see attendance go back up again.”