PREP SPORTS

Hammond Academy part of IHSAA class of new rules

2013-03-30T19:00:00Z 2013-03-30T23:08:04Z Hammond Academy part of IHSAA class of new rulesHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

In the last 10 years, 29 schools have been approved for entrance into the IHSAA.

Their rules for approval have seen fluctuations of change, thanks to some of the other 29 that have been a part of their decade of additions.

Among those 29 are Bowman Academy in Gary, Covenant Christian in Demotte, Gary Lighthouse and 21st Century, and the newest addition, Hammond Academy of Science and Technology.

When Bowman Academy was admitted for the 2006-07 year, the Eagles had to wait two seasons before they could join postseason play in any sport.

In their first sectional in 2009, the Eagles easily captured the title and went on to lose by two points in the regional title game. A year later, they were hoisting the state trophy.

Hammond Academy won't have the luxury of as speedy a turnaround.

The IHSAA altered the rules of inclusion, turning the two-year waiting period into a four-year period, because of what commissioner Bobby Cox said was a lack of understanding of the association's rules.

"Because we're talking about new schools, they didn't necessarily have administrators that had a history in IHSAA schools, so they were not able to complete a transfer report, or an entry report," Cox said. "We think they still needed a longer time to prepare for hosting high school athletics and understanding our rules."

Despite Hammond Academy's 10-3 baseball record last season that included wins over IHSAA schools, the Hawks won't be eligible for the sectional until the 2016-17 school year. In the meantime, baseball coach and athletic director Eric Arcella has been assigned to IHSAA assistant commissioner Phil Gardner, who will mentor the Hammond Academy athletics coaches so they understand the association's rules and can be compliant. 

Cox said that the board will make on-site visits over the next four years to check on the programs, talk with the students, administrators and coaches to verify that the through all aspects of the program the rules are adhered to.

"When I look at the old situation, I blamed ourselves," Cox said. "We needed to do a better job teaching our newer members about our rules. We assumed that they were like long-standing members, where when you look at the progression of schools that have been members for 75 or 100 years, you have coaches who become athletic directors who become principals who become superintendents, all of whom know the rules. At a new school, you don't have that."

The bulk of schools that were added in the last 10 years have been charter schools, and most have started at the Class A level, Cox said. The growth of charter schools has helped push previously 2A schools, like Wheeler, into Class 3A.

Those changes in class structure will likely continue as the four schools in the midst of their four-year probation that will be added during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years will all be Class A schools with 312 or fewer students enrolled at the most recent enrollment check.

Another layer added to the newest acceptance policy will be another vote by the board before the school can join a sectional.

"The vote will determine if the school is ready to be accepted or if we need to extend their probation period," Cox said. "If we have a member school that we don't feel is ready to join the association, we might recommend to wait and continue to teach them."

Arcella said he understands the need for the waiting period.

"They want to make sure we're doing everything right," the coach said. "The kids right now are all in with building the program up, and they know they're not going to be able to compete in the sectionals. I think it's a little tough on them, because they feel they have a chance to play in college, and they're afraid not being in a sectional they won't have the same exposure."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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