E.T. Pearl's "Play 'em Both Plan"
High school basketball fans in Indiana have probably spent more time arguing about the relative merits of our 15-year-old multiclass state tournament as opposed to the traditional "all-in-one" tourney than any other issue. Many different compromise plans also have been proposed as alternative methods of conducting the tourney.
Perhaps we've been looking at it from the wrong perspective.
Instead of bickering about which tournament is better, instead of trying to formulate a compromise between two such divergent concepts, why not take a different approach?
What I'm trying to say is:
Let's play both!
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Our "Play 'em Both Plan," which we are about to describe here in great detail, would accomplish the following:
1. It would satisfy the old-time traditionalists like myself who yearn for the day when every team had a chance to become THE state champion ... but it would also satisfy those who like the idea of more teams winning more titles.
2. It would do so without changing the basic structure and schedule of either tournament, except to eliminate the Class 4-A competition and add some interesting new wrinkles to the class tourneys.
3. It could be applied not only to both boys and girls basketball, but to baseball, softball and volleyball, the other sports currently grouped together in the IHSAA's class structure.
4. It would add only one week to the state tournament schedule, thus necessitating only a slight change in the IHSAA's schedule that governs all of its events throughout the school year.
5. It would provide us with three class champions and an overall state champion ... and each of those four teams would win its final game, so that nobody is left "with a bad taste in their mouths" (a frequent complaint about the "Tournament of Champions" concept that was discarded after a couple of years).
6. It would nearly double the number of tournament games played each season -- twice the fun, twice the excitement, twice the exposure for our talented student-athletes. And oh yes -- twice the revenue!!
7. The two tournaments would be held concurrently ... no need for a midseason event that was proposed years ago in several forms but was dismissed as unworkable.
8. It would restore the local sectional rivalries that were the essence of the single-class tourney, an essence that has been denied us the last 15 seasons while many teams and their followers are forced to travel long distances for sectional games against schools they know, or care, little about.
9. And above all, it would restore "The Dream," the dream that inspired young student-athletes in our state for generations, both before and after the Milan Miracle of 1954.
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But the devil, they say, is in the details. And I can hear you asking, "How can all this be accomplished in a reasonable and feasible manner?"
Here, then, is our "Play 'em Both Plan":
THE STRUCTURE AND SCHEDULE
All week -- 64 Open Sectionals (hereafter the word "Open" is used for the traditional, single-class tournament) involving all eligible IHSAA member schools. Groupings for these would be determined by the IHSAA in exactly the same manner as before, with geography and host center gymnasium requirements being among the main determining factors.
All week -- 48 Class Sectionals, 16 in each of three classes -- 3-A, 2-A and 1-A. Groupings to be determined the same as always.
Saturday (or Friday-Saturday) -- 16 Open Regionals, each consisting of four Open Sectional winners playing semifinal and final rounds.
Tuesday -- Class Supersectionals (more on these later).
Saturday (or Friday-Saturday) -- Four Open Semistates, each consisting of four Open Regional winners playing semifinal and final rounds.
Saturday (or Friday-Saturday) -- 12 Class Regionals (four in each class), each consisting of four Class Sectional winners (or Class Supersectional winners) playing semifinal and final rounds.
Tuesday -- Class Superregionals (more on these later).
Saturday (or Friday-Saturday) -- The Open State Finals at a single site, consisting of four Open Semistate winners playing semifinal and final rounds.
Saturday -- Six Class Semistates (two in each class), each consisting of two Class Regional winners (or Class Superregional winners) playing a single game.
Tuesday -- Class Supersemistates (more on these later).
Saturday -- The Class State Finals at a single site, consisting of two Class Semistate winners (or Class Supersemistate winners) in each class, one game per class. (Without Class 4-A, there would be a total of only three games).
HOW IT WOULD WORK
Pairings for both the Open Tournament and the three Class Tournaments will be made by the IHSAA in advance, as always, but the draws for many of the Class Sectionals will need to be adjusted slightly, according to the results of the Open Sectionals.
Every Class 3-A, 2-A and 1-A team that loses in its Open Sectional during Week One will play as scheduled in its Class Sectional in Week Two. The Open Sectional winners, of course, move on to an Open Regional and aren't ready yet to join the class competition.
When a team that was scheduled to play a first-round game in a Class Sectional wins an Open Sectional, its scheduled opponent will simply receive a bye and advance to the semifinal round. If that team had drawn a bye in the Class Sectional, the corresponding first-round game in that bracket would simply become a semifinal game.
Here are two examples using this six-team Class Sectional draw -- Tuesday: Team A vs. Team B, Team C vs. Team D; Friday: Team E vs. Winner 1, Team F vs. Winner 2.
Example 1: Team A wins its Open Sectional in Week One and doesn't have to play in the Class Sectional; therefore, Team B receives a bye and will play Team E in Friday's first semifinal game.
Example 2: Team F wins its Open Sectional in Week One and doesn't have to play in the Class Sectional; therefore, the game between Teams C and D becomes Friday's second semifinal game.
THE CLASS SUPERSECTIONALS
On Tuesday of Week Three, the Class Supersectionals will be played -- where needed.
A team that wins an Open Sectional in Week One, but then loses during an Open Regional in Week Two will compete in a Class Supersectional game. Its opponent, in most cases, will be the winner of the Class Sectional in which it would have competed. The site will be the same as the Class Sectional.
The Class Supersectional winner advances to the Class Regional; if there are no "dropdown" teams, the Class Sectional winner goes directly to the Class Regional.
THE CLASS SUPERREGIONALS
On Tuesday of Week Four, the Class Superregionals will be played -- where needed.
A team that wins an Open Sectional in Week One and an Open Regional in Week Two, but then loses in an Open Semistate in Week 3 will compete in a Class Superregional game. Its opponent, in most cases, will be the winner of the Class Regional in which it would have competed. The site will be the site of the Class Regional.
The winner of the Class Superregional advances to the Class Semistate; if there are no "dropdown" teams, the Class Regional winner goes directly to the Class Semistate.
THE CLASS SUPERSEMISTATES
On Tuesday of Week Five, the Class Supersemistates will be played -- where needed.
A team that wins an Open Sectional in Week One, an Open Regional in Week Two and an Open Semistate in Week Three, but then loses in the Open State Finals in Week Four will compete in a Class Supersemistate game. Its opponent, in most cases, will be the winner of the Class Semistate in which it would have competed. The site will be the site of the Class Semistate.
The winner of the Class Supersemistate advances to the Class State Finals; if there are no dropdown teams, the Class Semistate winner goes directly to the Class State Finals.
MULTIPLE DROPDOWN TEAMS
It is likely that some of the Class Sectional fields could have more than one team that wins an Open Sectional. It is also possible that multiple teams from the same Class Regional field could win an Open Regional.
Multiple dropdowns theoretically could cause a problem for our plan. But realistically, what is the likelihood that more than two lower-class teams from the same Class Regional field would win Open Regionals? Nevertheless, we feel obligated to explain how these situations could be handled.
Here's a link to a separate file with the possible scenarios:
-- Rematches -- An added attraction of the "Play 'em Both Plan" would be occasional rematches between local rivals at the sectional level, in areas where Open Sectional opponents are in the same Class Sectional. For example, all four schools in Wabash County are Class 2-A. The field for the Open Sectional might even be identical for the Class 2-A Sectional. Because of this, we recommend that, when this occurs, different gyms be used as the sites of the two sectionals involved.
-- Overlaps between girls and boys tourneys -- The Girls Open State Finals, Girls Class Superregionals and Girls Class Semistates would be the same week as the Boys Open Sectionals. The Girls Class Supersemistates and Girls Class State Finals would be the same week as the Boys Class Sectionals and Boys Open Regionals. Adjustments to the customary game schedules would have to be made.
LIKELY OBJECTIONS TO THE PLAN
"It's too complex."
Response -- Once you grasp the idea behind the supersectionals, superregionals and supersemistates, it will seem less complicated. They're really the only new wrinkles. The multiple dropdown scenarios admittedly are different, but the more complex scenarios aren't likely to happen more than every 20 years or so.
"There are too many games."
Response -- The most games a team could play would be 10, which is the exact number that state finalists had to play throughout the early and middle 20th Century. Many states allow far more than the roughly 20 regular-season games Indiana teams are allowed. Besides, these same athletes probably will be playing all weekend in AAU tournaments throughout the spring and summer.
"With the supersectionals, etc., etc, there's too little time between levels of the tourney."
Response -- We're simply accustomed to our own schedule. In Michigan, the district (sectional) finals are Friday and the regionals start Monday. It helps to think of the supersectionals as an extension of the sectionals -- they will be played at the same site; the same season tickets and programs will be good for both; the same officials will be assigned to both.
"Why is there no Class 4-A Tournament, so that everybody gets a second chance?"
Response -- The plan breaks down at the later stages because of the likelihood that a large percentage of the dropdowns would be Class 4-A teams. It would create a huge logjam of 4-A teams with not enough rounds left in the class tourney.