Sunday, March 11, 2007

Four-class (hard) feelings won't go away

POINT #1 .... Anyone who has subscribed to the City/Suburban Hoops Report or has even visited this blog knows how the Hoops Report feels about the upcoming four-class system. There isn't a person, school or group of people more upset and frustrated about the change as the Hoops Report--maybe some people are just as upset and frustrated, but none that are more.

I've heard from so many coaches and fans about being the "little guy" and how tough it is to compete. They say, "Joe, you don't understand." Heck with that, I do get it. My junior year in high school we had what was perceived as one of the best basketball teams in our school's history. The spring before that school year began we were notified that we would be a Class AA school for the first time in the school's history--the smallest Class AA school in the state. We went 23-2 in the regular season, would have been a Class A giant. Instead we finished 24-3, losing a heartbreaker to a 24-1 Class AA school in the regional final. Would I have rather been Class A? You bet. But I never would have wanted three or four classes. (By the way, what ever happened to three classes? Why bypass three and jump straight to four? Just another issue.)

Now, to add insult to injury, listening to quotes coming out of the IHSA office in recent weeks in newspaper articles regarding the switch to four classes, specifically from Executive Director Marty Hickman, just makes you shake your head. This is more than just about losing the tradition, history and sense of accomplishment that is instantly gone with the arrival of four classes. It's about how this whole thing was pushed through and the road they took to get four classes.

POINT #2 .... OK, fine, ignore the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association's thoughts on the matter, which is exactly what the IHSA did regarding expanding basketball to four classes. The IBCA was virtually unanimous in saying it did not favor going to four classes. If the IHSA wants to ignore the people that are in the heart of the sport and, in all likelihood, are the ones that probably know what is best for the sport, fine. Even an informal survey by the Hoops Report in one of last year's issues had astounding results, with a very, very small minority of coaches in the state saying they were in favor of four classes. But again, the Hoops Report is fine with the IHSA saying that while it respects the viewpoints of the coaches in the state, this matter is not about the coaches.

However, if I hear one more time, just one more quote coming out of the IHSA saying "this is what the membership wanted," I am going to lose it. What in the world are they basing this on? Is it the ridiculous survey the IHSA sent out to schools around the state with many other topics and questions packed into the very same survey? Is it that same survey that only 38 percent of the roughly 800 IHSA member schools responded to?

This has been pointed out time and time again by the Hoops Report. And it will continue to be pointed out as long as statements like "this is what the membership wanted" are spewed out of the mouths of the people that, deep down, want four classes. Think about it. If we're talking 38 percent of 800 that is right around 300 schools that responded. Of the 38 percent that did respond, 64 percent of those schools (64 percent of 300 schools) voted in favor of expanding to four classes. That means that of the roughly 800 member schools in this state, right around 192 of them were definitively in favor of expanding from two to four classes. That is less than 25 percent of the schools! So how can we be so positively sure that "this is what the membership wanted?"

Then I see quotes from Hickman in Sunday's Sun-Times saying "eight classes hasn't diminished the state championship [in football] in any way." What does he base this on? Has he listened to the people that cover the sport and follow it? While not nearly as controversial as basketball, I have spoken with several football coaches who believe eight classes are too many. The mass majority of media members believe eight classes are too many. I have spoken with many high school football fans, including myself, that lost a considerable amount of interest in the sport because of eight classes. As a fan you have no idea what teams are in what class and you lose any sense of tradition and history because it's impossible to even name past state champions because of eight classes.

POINT #3 .... The point is, with the way this was handled-- and knowing what a hot and emotional topic it was going to be -- how can anyone base a major decision that has so much impact on these type of survey results? When it comes to prep sports in Illinois, basketball is the heart and soul. You can't lump it together with volleyball and track.

Ask anyone close to the situation or those who have followed the issue closely, and it comes down to several individuals with small-school ties. The new regime at the IHSA helped in funneling this through by the way it was done. Would four-class basketball be here if the old regime at the IHSA, with the likes of Dave Fry, Don Robinson and Jim Flynn, been still intact? Maybe, but probably not. But before doing it, before making a monumental change, they would have made darn sure it truly was what the member schools wanted and not some small percent that pushed it through. A formal survey, separate from other issues and topics, with at least a majority responding, would have been conducted and evaluated.

No comments: