Hoosier hysteria reborn?

March 25, 2008
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Boys high school basketball hasn’t returned to its glory days of the 1960s, but this year’s final between Brownsburg and Marion drew a sell out crowd of 18,305 Saturday. Tournament officials said lots more tickets could have been sold if seats were available. This year marked the fourth straight year the evening session featuring the 3A and 4A championship games sold out. Due to a reconfiguration, the evening crowd grew from last year’s 17,997. Total attendance from the two state finals sessions grew from 26,215 last year to 31,943 this year.

“There was more of a demand this year very early in the week,” said Chris Kaufman, Indiana High School Athletic Association communications director.

Brownsburg also helped sell out the 7,200-plus seat Southport High School fieldhouse for the Indianapolis boys semistate. The Southport semistate, which also featured the 1A area semistate, was sold out three days in advance. Fans parked more than a mile from the school. The Warsaw semistate also was a sell out this year and the Lafayette Jefferson semistate was a near sell out.

IHSAA officials expect to see an increase from last year’s total tournament attendance of 456,960, including all class sectionals, regionals, semistates and state finals. IHSAA officials also expect to see an increase this year from the $603,909 profit the tournament raked in last year. IHSAA officials expect to have final numbers tabulated in the coming weeks.

But the tournament is a long way from its former glory. When ticket sales were driven by Damon Bailey in 1990, tournament profits hit $1.3 million. Tournament attendance that year was 981,395. The boys tournament regularly drew 1 million plus in the 1960s and 1970s, hitting a high of 1,554,454 in 1962.

But profitability has been ebbing up since class basketball began in 1998 when the tournament netted $494,867. This year’s tournament profits are projected to be the highest they’ve been since 1997. Kaufman also points out that a class basketball tournament is more costly, with more tournament venues to operate and officials to pay, than a single class tournament.

High school football attendance also was up this year across the board, IHSAA officials said, with the two-day state finals attracting a crowd of 51,217, up from last year’s 39,998. The crowd to see the 3A, 4A and 5A games on the second day this year, drew 38,478. Kaufman credits some of the football increases to the rising popularity of the Indianapolis Colts.

Do you think high school sports are finding new fans in Indiana? And should basketball still consider going back to a single-class tournament?
  • There are actually three less games than in the single-class tournament so the cost of officials would be lower (assuming the number of officials per game stays constant). Travel costs are obviously higher but that is because of the ridiculously far distances some teams must now go to get to the sectional sites.

    Having said that, it's time to return the semistates to the larger arenas such as Hinkle, Mackey Arena, Roberts Stadium, and the Allen County Coliseum. Increased seating capacity and parking would make attending those sites much more pleasurable for the fans.
  • From what I could see at semistate, I have to agree, it's time to move those games to bigger venues. IHSAA needs to turn their battle ship and get this done. I think that move alone could push the tournament's attendance above 500,000.
  • To me, this validates the move to classes in '98.

    I believe the fans, not the format, dictate success or failure of the beloved state boys basketball tourney.

    Seeing attendance on the rise should be a wonderful sight for Indiana high school fans regardless of whether they supported or disagreed with the format change.
  • I think what you're seeing and will continue to see is an increased interest in H.S. sports because of the decreased interest in professional sports. The NBA in particular, has done a masterful marketing job the past 10-15 years, but people are growing weary of it's predictability and lack of basic skills in its players. H.S. sports, and particular girl's high school sports, will continue to grow because of its purity and excitement.
  • Sean of March 27th is living in a dream world. Class basketball is just the final nail in the coffin of Hoosier Hysteria. And it's not about a format change either. It's about the concept of Class basketball. After 75+ years of having a single state champion, fans just don't like having four champions based on
    Class of 1941, and still a hoosier at heart,
    go back to single class Basketball!!! Still folllow BB even though have been out of state since 1942!!!!!!

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