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Indiana basketball tourney format to get second look

January 18, 2012

A state Senate committee rejected an effort Wednesday to resurrect Indiana's single-class high school basketball tournament, but the head of the statewide high school athletics governing body agreed to review the current format.

The Senate education committee deadlocked 4-4 on the provision in a measure that sought to restore the single-class format abandoned 14 years ago. Afterward, Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who introduced the legislation, agreed to drop the tournament provision.

Bobby Cox, commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, agreed after the vote to review the current four-class system, which groups the IHSAA's 408 member schools according to enrollment. But he said he thinks the current format is more fair to smaller schools and that lawmakers should allow the schools to decide how to run the tournament.

"I don't anticipate that there are going to be any wholesale changes in it, but I've told the senator that we're going to work together and we're going to study it and we're going to reach out to the public," Cox said.

Delph said he introduced the bill because the current tournament format has "failed miserably" and because the old tournament, celebrated in the 1986 movie "Hoosiers," helped to unite the state for decades.

"I told (Cox) how important I thought basketball was to the cultural identity of the state — that it's a sport unlike any other sport in how it's perceived by the people of Indiana," he said.

No timetable has been set to review the tournament, which will include town hall-style meetings across the state to gauge public sentiment about the current system.

The tournament provision was included in a bill that also sought to block school districts from starting the academic year before Labor Day and to require schools to teach cursive writing. Senate education committee members voted 6-2 Wednesday to approve Delph's request to change the bill's start date requirement to the fourth Monday in August, but the committee deadlocked on the other provisions. The committee chairman withdrew the bill from further action Wednesday, leaving its fate uncertain.

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