Senator pushes for return to single-class high school basketball

Senator Jean Leising is the woman behind Senate Bill 84, which would do away with the current class basketball system.

Indianapolis

An Indiana Senator is pushing for a return to a single class, all-in, state high school basketball tournament.

Senator Jean Leising is the woman behind Senate Bill 84, which would do away with the current class basketball system.

It's been 14 years since Indiana began awarding four different state high school basketball titles. Now, talk of a change back to a single tournament has lots of people talking.

"Times have changed a lot. It's a lot more competitive now," said Sherron Hooks, who likes the current class system. "Kids are getting into it at a lot younger age."

Callers to the Ride with JMV radio show had mixed feelings about the latest attempt to go back to a single class.

"I love Indiana, I love basketball history and I think that class basketball took away a lot of that," one caller said. "But in terms of my own personal situation with my kids it couldn't have paid off better."

Senator Leising said she recognizes small schools successfully pushed for the change to the class system in 1997 and helped defeat a similar bill in the 2000 legislature. Principals argued that it would help restore a competitive balance, but Leising said she doesn't buy the argument.

"Just because a school is small doesn't mean they can't be a winner or produce a winner," Leising said.

Senator Leising points to Milan's 1954 state championship to help make her point. The story helped inspire the movie "Hoosiers" and she said it also inspired her as she attended Sunman High School, another small school in Ripley County.

"We didn't have any reason to believe that we couldn't also win the state final," Leising said. "So I think that we need to set goals higher for kids."

Today the Indiana High School Athletic Association responded in a statement saying it is "opposed to Senate Bill 84."

The IHSAA also cited a 2006 survey of all Indiana schools, which found just 10.6 percent favored a single class.

The statement went on to say, "The current tournament formats allow more schools and more student athletes to advance through our various state tournaments and along with countless Indiana communities, experience the excitement of advancement to the higher levels of tournament series events."

Senator Leising disagreed, saying attendance is down and the legislature needs to get involved because the class system is hurting local economies.

"Now you've got schools playing across the state," Leising said, referencing the move away from local regionals. "The parents go, sure, maybe some of their closest friends and family, but the whole community doesn't go anymore."

Leising said she has spoken to the school superintendents in District 42, which she represents. She said they had a mixed response to the bill, but she believes the majority of the general public will support a return to the single class tournament.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Policy will decide whether or not the bill will go to a vote in the upcoming session. Leising said she expects to hear whether or not it will some time early next month.

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