HILLARY SMITH: Thanks for the assist

2014-03-30T19:30:00Z 2014-03-30T20:30:28Z HILLARY SMITH: Thanks for the assistHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 30, 2014 7:30 pm  • 

Where do we start the thank yous?

Maybe the first one goes to the Big Ten, for moving the conference women's basketball tournament to Hoffman Estates from Indianapolis and opening a date on the Banker's Life Fieldhouse calendar.

The tournament has bottlenecked the girls basketball state finals for the last six seasons.

Now women's basketball doesn't want to be blamed for detracting from girls basketball, but there it was: six years of rotating tournament sites for the IHSAA girls state basketball finals.

(The boys never changed, by the way.)

Finals in Fort Wayne and Terre Haute or at Lucas Oil Stadium made the carpetbagger look of the girls tournament less special than the boys, who had their permanent home.

With the move to The Sears Center in 2015, the scheduled opened up and on Friday, the IHSAA approved the move to put the girls finals back in Indianapolis.

So there's the thank you that's deserved to the IHSAA, for realizing that the center of the state is the most accommodating for everyone.

Not that there were any complaints from coaches, who were happier than clams to be traveling with their teams to the ends of the earth for a chance at a state title.

But, Penn drove from Mishawaka to Terre Haute — a conservative distance of 255 miles — for the Class 4A state finals this year while Bedford North Lawrence drove 86 miles from the south. Both were still closer to Banker's Life Fieldhouse.

Given the opening, the IHSAA jumped, realizing that every girls state final should have the same importance as the boys.

A bittersweet thank you to the Northern Lakes Conference principals who have created a proposal to make sure the conflict with the Big Ten women's tournament — and more importantly the boys tournament — doesn't happen again.

This is bittersweet, because the benefit of girls basketball comes at the cost of the girls volleyball.

The proposal, which the IHSAA Board of Directors decided on Friday that it would consider in May, would move the start of the season up in the calendar by one week. It would give a three-week window between the start of the girls basketball season and the start of the boys season. It would also take away the possibility of the girls state finals falling on the same weekend as the boys.

(The Northern Lakes Conference teams, by the way, are Concord, Elkhart Memorial, Goshen, Northwood, Northridge, Plymouth, Warsaw and Wawasee.)

This proposal is a long time coming. The cost of the volleyball teams could put a strain on intercoaching relationships, but overall the benefit is for the girls programs as a whole.

And any girls playing sports should be thankful for that.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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