TERRE HAUTE — Ah spring. The greening of the trees. The start of baseball. The Indianapolis 500. And IHSAA postseason bungling.
Once again, the spring sports postseason cycle has exposed the obvious — the IHSAA does not know how to handle its class system, a viable postseason schedule, or how to make the postseason accessible to the average fan and manageable for the average school district.
Every year it seems to be something different. This year, it was scheduling gridlock.
Softball, baseball, tennis and track all had postseason events scheduled in the days after Memorial Day. While the combination of those sports in that time period wasn’t new, the conglomeration of events was.
The difference from past years is that the softball and baseball sectionals were both scheduled to start in the same week — softball on Memorial Day, baseball on Thursday they had been split up by a week in recent seasons.
Additionally, tennis regionals and the semistates, plus the track regionals — events that took place before Memorial Day in recent years — were crammed into the same week as the baseball and softball sectionals.
The result was predictable … organizational chaos. Administrators had to figure out a way to have people at three different sites at once on certain days. Buses had to be massed together and sent to the four corners of the Earth to say nothing of having to be marshaled at the last minute to account for weather issues. It affected media coverage as outlets had to pick-and-choose what was covered based on resources that weren’t nearly as stretched out when the sports were spread out more.
And all of that was before the rain hit. The IHSAA can’t be blamed for Mother Nature’s mischievousness, however, the IHSAA could have guessed based on, oh, 100 years of past experience, that rain can and does effect the spring postseason far more than any of the other postseasons.
Given that, it might have behooved someone on Meridian Street to think that maybe, just maybe, it might not be a good idea to try and cram 64 softball sectionals, the opening round of 64 baseball sectionals, 16 tennis regionals and 16 track regionals in the span of five days.
The impact will continue this weekend. Quixotically, it will be felt most by the fans of teams that have been most successful.
Riverton Parke fans, for example, have a choice to go Indianapolis Lutheran for softball regional or Cowan (Cowan!) for the baseball regional. But Panthers fans won’t be able to do both, because they’ll be going on at the same time. Brilliant.
This new wrinkle of fail joins the annual arcane annoyances we’ve all grown accustomed to, such as the inflexible way sectionals are assigned and the slavish devotion to maintaining a sectional site from start to finish.
In any economy, but in this one in particular, there is no earthly reason why Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South’s baseball teams should have to make a pain-in-the-rear end, 90-minute-plus trek, half of it over cruddy two-lane roads, to play a sectional championship game at Martinsville merely because it was the preordained site.
Why can’t the sectional structure be flexible enough to change the site if the two teams play nowhere near the preordained one? They’ve managed to square that circle in other states, why not here? Fire up Fiddler On The Roof. Tradition!
It really wouldn’t be hard to fix much of this. Here’s what the IHSAA can do:
• Start track and tennis two weeks before Memorial Day. Let those sports have some exclusivity at sectional time. If that means an earlier start time for those sports, so be it.
• Start softball sectionals the week before Memorial Day with a Friday, Saturday, Memorial Day championship format, bleeding into Tuesday if need be, with the regionals on the Saturday following Memorial Day.
Tennis regionals would be the Tuesday and Wednesday before Memorial Day with the Saturday semistate. Track regional would be the Tuesday and Thursday before Memorial Day. Just as both sports were before this year.
• Start baseball as it is now on the Thursday after Memorial Day, with a Thursday-Monday-Tuesday/Wednesday format. The regional would be as it is now on Saturday.
That takes care of most of the gridlock, now for the sectional sites. This should apply to boys basketball, girls basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball. Football is an issue for another day:
• Mandate that all teams within a sectional must schedule a home-and-home with the other teams in their sectional field. In a six-team sectional field, it would eat up 10 games, with the other games free to be scheduled by the schools themselves.
Your sectional field would essentially become your conference and all postseason seeds (egads! seeding!) and sites would be determined by where you finished in those games, in other words, home-field advantage.
If a school finishes 10-0 against teams in its sectional, it deserves it. This would also avoid those idiotic 19-1 vs. 18-2 (or 1-19 vs. 2-18) first-round sectional matchups. By proxy, it would also introduce a brave, “new” concept to the IHSAA world … actual meaningful regular season games that affect the postseason. Cue Also Sprach Zarathustra!
Would it work? Who knows? But it couldn’t be any worse than what the IHSAA foists upon us now.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE — Ah spring. The greening of the trees. The start of baseball. The Indianapolis 500. And IHSAA postseason bungling.
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