Beginning in 2021, the Illinois High School Association will implement the first major overhaul of the state basketball tournaments since the four-class system was implemented in 2008.
Rather than spreading the boys and girls tournaments over four weeks, the tournaments will be consolidated over two weekends. All four girls’ classes will compete from March 4 to 6, 2021. The boys’ tournament will be held the following weekend.
Both boys and girls tournaments will be held Thursday through Friday. The implementation coincides with the possibility of new venues. The girls’ tournament currently is held at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena, while the boys’ event is at Peoria’s Carver Arena. The IHSA is seeking bids to host the tournaments for the 2021-2023 seasons.
Reaction of coaches in Southern Illinois has been predictably mixed, ranging from enthusiastic, to wait-and-see, to opposition.
“I really like it,” said Benton boys coach Ron Winemiller. “I think it gets everybody in whole state under one roof for the whole weekend. I’m anxious to see what it does in the trickle down, to the regionals, sectional and super-sectional to get to that point.
“The other thing I hope they do, I hope they play 1A and 2A sectionals on a Friday night and the 3A and 4A on Saturday night. I think it allows us to shine a spotlight on the different levels when they reach that point. Once again, it lets the 1A-2A get their spotlight and the 3A-4A get their spotlight.”
The availability of officials may necessitate that change.
“I just hope they really look at the time frame of how they are going to handle the officials,” said Pinckneyville boys’ coach Bob Waggoner. “When you have that many regionals and sectionals going on at the same time. I think it will affect the officiating.”
While most coaches generally favor consolidation, some details are concerning.
“Something had to be done just to draw more attendance,” said Carbondale boys’ coach Jim Miller. “I think the IHSA is trying its very best to do that. I’m not 100 percent sold on the format. One group plays Thursday and another doesn’t play don’t until ... as long as the teams I play against have the same time off, it doesn’t matter.”
“Change is good, at least they are trying to do something to better attendance,” said Harrisburg girls’ coach Jake Stewart. “If they can get more people to go to Bloomington to make the atmosphere better is a good thing. What they have right now isn’t working.
“There are three days. What is that extra day for — I’m perplexed by that. I think they are trying to make the experience better for the players to just get more people there in general. At the same time, I just don’t know.“
Some important details have yet to be announced. Scheduling will be interesting. There hasn’t been a definitive statement as to whether the third place games will be kept or eliminated. The IHSA has stated that the regional, sectional and super-sectional schedules will be altered. Those decisions haven’t been reached to date.
“I asked questions yesterday,” said Goreville boys’ coach Todd Tripp. “How is this going to work? I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting. I haven’t really looked all the details yet.”
“I’m interested to see what the do with the third place games,” Winemiller said. “They’ve been pretty adamant about wanting to keep them. It would be interesting to see how they finagle that. There are still some logistical things to work on, but I’m excited about it.”
Carbondale girls coach Marialice Jenkins is opposed to the concept.
“I’m kind of against it,” she said. “I’m against classes. I just think it will diminish the event. Someone will get the crap time. I just think it will diminish someone’s experience.
“Kids haven’t played in the morning throughout the year. It will kind of stink that one of the biggest games of the season, they’ll have to play off the normal grid. I think they just ought to leave it alone.”