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IHSAA's 2-year tradition factor will affect more than private school champs
July 2, 2012Lafayette Jefferson High School
High school teams across the state are staying busy this summer, putting in the extra work necessary for state tournament success.
For the first time, some teams will get more than a trophy for advancing deep in the tournament. The IHSAA recently adopted a tradition factor, which will bump highly successful teams up to a higher class.
The executive committee adopted a two-year plan written by IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox instead of a four-year plan proposed by the Indiana Football Coaches Association. Sentiment for such a change had increased in recent years in response to the dominance of some private schools in the association’s lower classes.
While I understand why some support the tradition factor, I have doubts about how well this new plan will address perceived competitive inequalities.
To recap, under the new rules, teams receive one point for winning a sectional, two for a regional, three for a semistate and four for a state championship. Points are awarded for a team’s highest level of achievement, not collectively.
If a team accumulates six or more points during a two-year classification cycle, it bumps up one class for the next two-year cycle. (This will not apply to schools already moving up due to increased enrollment.)
If that team achieves six or more points in the next cycle, it moves up another class. It if achieves four or five, it stays at the class it bumped to previously. If it scores three or fewer, it drops back down to its previous class (provided its enrollment would still place it there).
It’s not that complicated, and the standard necessary to bump a team up is fairly high. The only way a team moves up without winning a state championship is if it wins semistates (and advances to the state finals) in both seasons.
Teams who have dominated certain sports — including Central Catholic in Class A baseball and football, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers in Class 2A football and Muncie Burris in Class 2A volleyball — would be affected. Those programs who have dominated their class would be forced to take on a greater challenge.
But they won’t be the only ones affected. A program which has never won a sectional that suddenly wins a regional and a state championship also moves up. The tradition factor’s mathematics can’t recognize whether or not that success comes on the strength of perhaps a once-in-a-generation player or an outrageously talented senior class.
I’m also not sure those excited about a state power being taken out of their state tournament path will ultimately find much satisfaction in the new rules.
I heard from many Rensselaer football supporters who believe the Bombers were denied a fair chance to win a state championship because the Luers behemoth waited for them at semistate in 2009 and ’10.
Let’s say the IHSAA had voted in favor of the tradition factor in June 2009. Luers still beats Rensselaer twice before moving up for the 2011 season, and I probably hear the same complaints.
Timing is everything with the tradition factor, and there are more examples.
Central Catholic and Frontier are perennially ranked among the top baseball teams in Class A. Under these rules, as long as the Knights and Falcons remain in the same sectional, they could alternate state championship seasons without either team ever moving up.
If you want to succeed in back-to-back seasons, make sure you straddle those classification cycles. If West Lafayette football wins a state championship next season, it moves up to Class 4A (two points for a 2011 regional title, four for a 2012 state title). But as long as a team didn’t win a regional during the past school year, it can win state championships in the next two seasons but not move up, because those titles will come in two different classification cycles.
That’s a big loophole in the plan, and I envision plenty of fans becoming frustrated when their team is bumped up a class and their rival is not simply because they won during the wrong years.
One solution would be to reclassify every season, and the only drawback is the extra work that creates for the IHSAA.
Cox praised the executive committee for acting in the best interests of Indiana’s student athletes. I think it’s clear that, in order to fairly apply this tradition factor, their work is not finished.