IHSA should go back to schools on four-class tourney system

Published11/9/2007 12:18 AM

So here it is, huh?

The four-class system brought to you by the confounding folks of the Illinois High School Association makes its official state debut today with the girls volleyball semifinals at Redbird Arena in Normal.


Excuse me if I'm feeling underwhelmed by the whole concept. Count me among the purists who don't like the idea of creating more champions by diluting the competition.

What really confuses me is how we got to this point.

While I completely disagree with the IHSA's philosophy of geographic representation (or as I like to call it, competitive misrepresentation), I understand its goal is not to have the best teams reach state, but to have each region of Illinois represented there.

Adhering to the geographic representation philosophy is one thing. But if competitiveness, fairness and giving teams an equal shot at winning a state title lost out to geographic representation in the first place, then why the desire to create more state champions in a format that admittedly isn't interested in determining a true state champion anyway?

It's a contradictory conundrum to me.

Creating more winners in a geographic representation system amplifies the arbitrary nature of the tournaments. It's a shell game that replaces superior teams with inferior ones.

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In selling out some of the state's best teams in favor of convenience and political correctness, we might as well save everyone gas money and flip a coin through the state brackets to determine a winner.

I also don't like the arbitrary way class expansion became a reality.

In December 2005 schools were asked to respond to a survey dealing with classification and tournament structure. Of the schools that responded, 64 percent of them were in favor of adopting a four-class system in girls volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball. However, since only 57 percent of schools responded to the survey, the 273 schools that voiced their preference for a four-class system represented only 36 percent of the 752 member schools in the state.

Later that December IHSA schools approved the 1.65 enrollment multiplier for non-boundaried schools by a vote of 450 to 143 schools. That meant that 79 percent of the state's schools voted and 60 percent of them did so for the multiplier.

Then in January 2006, the IHSA's board of directors voted to adopt class expansion that went into effect this school year. On that day of adoption, IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said until the schools were recently polled "there hasn't been the kind of support to warrant such an expansion as was approved by our board today."


To me 36 percent on a survey and not even a vote does not warrant such an expansion.

Perhaps if a vote was taken after the ramifications of class expansion were fully laid out, the misguided girls volleyball format of having teams play two matches in one day in regionals and sectionals that the IHSA board blindsided teams with in August would have never been implemented.

The idea of playing two matches in one night to save some downstate schools long trips misses the big picture. Sure, it saves a few bucks as well as a night or two of homework time and even time in school. But in doing that it sells out a team's year-long commitment to a goal and the fundamental ideal of fairness in sport. High schools don't need to be teaching kids how to sell out so conveniently.

In responding to complaints about state tournament issues in girls volleyball and cross country, a couple IHSA administrators echoed each other on separate occasions as they blamed the principals for wanting class expansion.

Not so fast. With significantly less than half of principals in the state actually responding to the IHSA's survey and favoring class expansion, the IHSA shouldn't be so quick to pass the buck.

As I cover Naperville Central and St. Francis at the girls volleyball state tournament, I'll be thinking about some other teams from the area that are good enough to be there, too.

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