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Bill introduced to put Indiana high school basketball multi-class issue on 2014 ballot

Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 1:09 am

The issue of the postseason format for the high school basketball state tournament could be coming to the voting booth for Hoosiers in 2014.

Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) introduced a bill Tuesday that would place a non-binding statewide public question on the 2014 general election ballot asking if Hoosiers want a single-class or multiple-class postseason system for the annual IHSAA girls and boys basketball state tournaments.

Indiana for the last 15 years has held multiple state tournaments in boys and girls basketball with high schools being divided into four classes based on enrollment. Before the 1997-98 school year, Indiana had all high schools compete in a single-class state championship tournament.

Leising, in an interview with The News-Sentinel prior to the start of the legislative session, said she would pursue introducing legislation to put the class basketball issue on the ballot and would even consider trying to make it a statewide referendum. However, the current bill introduced would make the potential 2014 statewide vote only advisory and would not require the IHSAA to adopt a postseason format based on the public question results.

For Leising's bill to get on the Indiana ballot, it will first have to receive a hearing and pass in the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure. In addition, it would have to pass both the House and Senate of the Indiana General Assembly during this four-month legislative session, which started earlier this week.

This is the second consecutive year that Leising has introduced a bill about the current high school basketball postseason system.

Leising last session introduced Senate Bill 84 that would have ended class basketball, but the bill did not receive a committee hearing or reach the Senate floor for a vote.

That bill, though, did help prompt the IHSAA to conduct town hall meetings last year throughout Indiana to further examine the issue. After these meetings, the IHSAA announced in June that it would not return to the single-class postseason format.

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox also told The News-Sentinel during the summer that he would actively lobby against any bill introduced this session that attempted to change the state tournament's structure.

Polls conducted last year showed a slight majority of Hoosiers favored a return to the single-class postseason format.

Fifty-two percent of Hoosiers said they prefer a single-class state championship, according to a 500-person survey conducted by the Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion research group. In addition, straw polls of the combined 514 people who attended the 11 town hall meetings on class basketball last year showed 68.09 percent favored a return to the single-class tournament.