State Senator May Try Single-Class Basketball Referendum

A state senator says she may seek a referendum on single-class basketball, despite overwhelming disapproval from players and administrators.

basketball court

Photo: Indiana Public Media

Even though more than three-fourths of players, principals and athletic directors voted against going back to a single state basketball tournament, one state senator says she's like to put it to a public vote.

Despite an overwhelming majority of high school principals, athletic directors and basketball players voting to stay with the state’s current multi-class basketball system, one state senator says she may try to put the issue to a vote of the people. But the Indiana State High School Association’s commissioner says such a move would amount to unnecessary government meddling.

The IHSAA held a series of meetings around the state earlier this year, during which an informal poll of attendees showed that about two-thirds preferred a single basketball tournament in which all teams are entered.

That led the group to poll its coaches, administrators and players and a majority of all groups showed a preference for a multi-class system like the one currently in place.

But Oldenburg State Senator Jean Leising says she plans to explore whether a statewide referendum of all voters can help decide the issue. Leising contends the state’s basketball heritage is diminishing because having multiple tournaments makes it harder for people to follow the game, causing attendance and interest to decline.

“Some people would say ‘why does Jean Leising care?’ Well, in the sixties I was a cheerleader. I saw the completely filled sectional and regional and semifinal facilities,” she says.

IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox agreed to the town hall meetings to quash a bill authored by Carmel Republican Mike Delph which would have made multi-class basketball participation illegal.

“I read all the time about how our legislature wants to talk about small government and how we need to have local control and let people do their thing and let them have governance. Yet I can’t think of a better example of big government trying to impose its will on a small organization by telling them what kind of basketball tournament to run.”

Leising says Cox has always been committed to having several classes of teams, leaving her unsurprised the IHSAA chose to remain with its existing structure. Cox says he’s open to changes within the multi-class structure in the future.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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