The once grand reputation and resume of Indiana high school basketball is in crises. What was once great and nationwide has become something vastly different.
It has become something met with a yawn, without a second glance. The Monster in the Gym has been flat-lined.
That is why the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association is meeting today on the west side of Indianapolis. Munster coach Mike Hackett and Wheeler coach Tom Johnson are both members of the IBCA Board of Directors.
"We're hoping to find a way to pump some life back into Hoosier Hysteria," Hackett said.
In March at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the lowest state finals attendance in state history shocked many. Only 22,820 went to Indianapolis for the Big Dance. The boys basketball total tournament attendance of 385,024 was the lowest in the multi-class basketball era, which began in 1997-98.
The girls basketball state finals in Terre Haute only drew 8,475 fans.
State Senator Mike Delph (R) of Carmel put political pressure on the IHSAA and consequently, 11 Town Hall Meetings were held around the state last spring where the topic of class basketball was discussed.
A straw poll was taken at each meeting. There were 514 ballots cast, 68 percent favored a return to a single-class format. Only 31 percent wanted to keep the current four-class system.
"The one thing a lot of people were frustrated with at the Town Hall Meetings was that they only gave people two options, single-class or four classes," Johnson said. "A lot of people walked away with a bad taste in their mouth. A lot of people felt all opinions should be aired."
The IHSAA also surveyed 7,236 principals, athletic directors, basketball coaches and student athletes. Those groups all favored the multi-class format, with 5,181 (71.6 percent) voting in favor of the current system.
Johnson used to hate the idea of class basketball. Now, coaching at a 2A school, that won the boys basketball state championship in 2010, he understands how class sports has been a positive to small schools.
Today the IBCA will look at five different hybrid, compromise plans that could help with some of the perceived problems with the current format. There is a reason fans have stopped attending something they used to cherish and never miss.
Last March Bowman Academy played Tipton in the 2A semistate at Lafayette Jefferson. The other semistate game there was a Class A game. Only 2,395 fans went to the games, half as many as were there the year before when Munster played Kokomo in the 4A semistate.
"I was a part of the original one, and I'm a part of this one," Hackett said. "I think there's a better way of doing it. I'm interested in some kind of compromise."
The IBCA will review five tournament plans with hopes of pumping life back into Hoosier Hysteria. The Kentucky Plan has a small-school tournament during the regular season, with everyone in the season-ending tourney.
The Hickory Compromise would keep the four classes intact through the regional championship games, then the 16 remaining teams would compete for one championship.
The Big Dance Compromise would split the 64 sectionals into two classes. All the sectional champions would play the rest of the way in a single tournament.
The 4-2-1 Compromise would have four classes in the sectional round, two classes in the regional and one from the regional finals on. In the regional semifinals the 2A team would play the Class A team, with 3A-4A in the other semifinal, guaranteeing a small-school team in every regional championship game.
The IBCA will discuss these plans and might even modify them. If there is a plan the Board can agree on, a survey will be sent to coaches across the state to see if some consensus can be agreed upon.
If the survey numbers are positive, the IBCA would then send a proposal to the IHSAA.
Hackett believes the biggest issue with prep basketball is it is lumped in with volleyball, baseball and softball. Football, which recently had a sixth class added, is looked at as a singular sport.
"Football is football," Hackett said. "It's by itself. When they change our tournament they have to think about volleyball, softball and baseball. What's best for basketball may not be best for volleyball and that's the problem we have now."
Johnson supports class sports because of all the good it has brought to his school. But he knows there are a lot of problems currently. Travel, especially in the south, is killing the gate.
"Schools don't have money, it's that simple," Johnson said. "It's not bad around here, but downstate you can have a three-hour drive on a Tuesday night. That hurts the tournament, the game.
"There are hybrid options and we need to look at them to see if there is a better way to do this."