STEVE HANLON: The IHSAA got the sixth-class right in football

2012-08-16T21:30:00Z 2012-09-04T20:20:08Z STEVE HANLON: The IHSAA got the sixth-class right in footballBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
August 16, 2012 9:30 pm  • 

Historically, this scribe has never been a cheerleader for the IHSAA.

Good people trying to do a good job, the saying goes, but too much unchecked power.

On June 22 the IHSAA approved a sixth class for football, a tournament success factor in team sports and — boo — the return of the girls basketball state finals to Terre Haute.

Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Since this is football season these words will deal with the first two proposals. The sixth class is a no-brainer, good move. The success factor is mostly good, but only time will tell if it brings about the desired aim.

This is the last football season where the 64 largest schools in the state compete in Class 5A. After this November's dance at Lucas Oil Stadium, the largest 32 schools will be moved up to 6A.

This includes Crown Point, Lake Central, Merrillville, Portage and Valparaiso. Starting in 2013 these schools will be placed in four-team sectionals and will have a bye-week when the rest of the state begins tournament play.

Can anyone say reprieve for Chesterton and Munster?

Last year Chesterton's enrollment was 1,936. Munster's was 1,648. With Indianapolis Ben Davis having 4,347 students to pick from and being in the same tournament as the Trojans and Mustangs, this was a great call from the folks on Meridian Street.

"When the IFCA put this proposal together we had about 90 percent approval from both the principals and coaches, and that's unusual," Munster coach Leroy Marsh said. "It was pretty simple. Those on the bottom half of 5A had little or no chance of making any kind of run."

Since moving to 5A in 2007, Munster has gone 2-5 in sectional play.

Chesterton has always been one of the smallest 5A programs. John Snyder has built a very strong program there. Chesterton, the second-smallest school in the Duneland Athletic Conference, has never won a sectional championship.

"Does it help?" Snyder asked. "Based on our past I would have to say it will."

In 2008 the Trojans made it to the sectional championship game and lost to Merrillville 14-7. So they've been close.

Where schools will go in 2013 is still up in the air. The new classifications will be announced this winter followed by the sectional assignments.

Let's take a look at how these fields might look.

Sectional 1 will certainly have Crown Point, Lake Central and Merrillville. Then the IHSAA will have to pick Portage or Valparaiso for the fourth team.

Whoever is left out of the local sectional will likely be in a bracket with Lafayette Jeff, Penn and Warsaw, if geography is used. But the girls hoops championship site proves that is not always the case.

In the new 5A it will likely be Chesterton, E.C. Central, Michigan City and Munster in Sectional 9. LaPorte will likely head east in No. 10.

 "This will be a more level playing field in 5A," Marsh said. "And I think the parochial schools like the tradition factor because they didn't feel like they were being singled out. It was the lesser of two evils."

Instead of a multiplier applied to all private schools, which was talked about in recent years, the IHSAA came up with a politically correct way to deal with the dominance of Catholic schools in the Indiana state tournament in football.

Private schools have won the last four Class A state titles, the last five 2A crowns, 11 of the last 15 in 3A and four of the last six in 4A.

The IHSAA's new system will give a school one point for a sectional championship, two points for a regional title, three points for a semistate win and four points for a state title. If any program earns six points in a specific two-year period they will be bumped to the next higher enrollment class.

You think Rensselaer wishes this had been in place when the Bombers played Fort Wayne Luers in the semistate in 2009 and 2010?

This is not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

"I've got a feeling the (Indianapolis) Cathedrals and Luers will do just fine even if they move up a class," said Marsh, a board member on the Indiana Football Coaches Association. "But you don't want to punish the private schools who might be struggling in a certain sport, either."

So the next few months are it. Since the Class 5A tournament started in 1985, no region football team has won a 5A state crown. We're 0-5. No team has even gotten to the dance since 2001 with Valparaiso.

Can it be done before the new format begins? Unlikely, history says. But Lake Central, Crown Point and Merrillville, likely in that order, have a shot to eat turkey in Indy on Thanksgiving.

Then, in the future, it will be Marsh's and Snyder's turn.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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

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