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?