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Here we go again

I've never met state Sen. Mike Delph. But I do know what century he's living in.

Here's a hint: It ain't this one.

The man seems to think it's still 1954 or 1965 or 1977, which is why he's used his position as a crowbar to bludgeon the IHSAA into re-igniting an argument so dead it's nothing but dry bones. Class basketball vs. the old single-class tournament? We're really digging up that thing again, 15 years after it was laid in its grave?

Yes. Yes, we are.

In the next few weeks, Delph and IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox will visit 11 sites around the state -- Fort Wayne's turn is April 10 -- to elicit public feedback on class hoops. Despite Sen. Delph's lost-in-the-past pining ("It's my hope that the public turns out in overwhelming fashion and stands with me and demands that we restore a proud Indiana tradition," he said the other day), it's a pointless dog-and-pony show that will have zero impact on anything, because there is zero chance the people who decide these things are going to vote to go back to the single-class tournament.

The last time an IHSAA commissioner polled the principals who vote on these things, after all, 90 percent of them wanted to retain the current system. That was six years ago, and it's doubtful many of them have changed their minds since.

Nor should they.

That's because this isn't 1954 or 1965 or 1977, and to think it's ever going to be again is folly of the highest order. If attendance has sagged dramatically in the last 15 years -- this year's boys state finals had the lowest attendance in the class era -- and the sense of occasion is largely gone because the tournament has abandoned large population centers, it's not solely because of the move to class basketball.

Granted, that didn't help. And you can argue that the way it was done -- against the wishes of the kids involved and the coaches and athletic directors -- set the table for codgers like Sen. Delph to dredge all of this up again a decade-and-a-half after the fact.

I was one of those codgers, back in the day. My opposition to class basketball is a matter of long public record; in 1998, I argued that the move to class hoops was fixing something that demonstrably wasn't broken, because Indiana's was the most wildly successful high school basketball tournament in the country, by miles and miles.

That, however, was then. And this is now.

Now I recognize that Delph's notion that reviving the single-class tournament will magically restore Hoosier Hysteria to its former glory is wishful thinking wrapped around mythology, the mythology being that the Little Guy Still Has A Chance. And that, in turn, is wrapped around Hoosier Hysteria's core mythology: Milan, 1954.

Truth is, except in student population, Milan was no more the Little Guy that year than the team it played for the title, Muncie Central. The Indians of '53-'54, after all, returned virtually intact a team that had reached the state finals the previous year. If Vegas had been taking odds, Milan logically would have been one of the favorites.

And even at that, let's face it: Indiana in 1954 bears such faint resemblance to the Indiana of 2012 that Milan might as well have won its title in 1354. If the Little Guy had next to no chance then, he's got no chance at all today. The disparity in size and resources between the big schools and small schools has done nothing but grown since the last single-class tournament in 1997, and so has a culture that was already then beginning to turn away from high school basketball as its touchstone.

Sure, we can go back to single-class. And what we'll get for it is not a return to Hoosier Hysteria -- that's nothing but an historical artifact now -- but even more 85-35 sectional games between the haves and have-nots than we did back in the day.

I want to be there when Mike Delph asks the kids who wind up on the short end of those games how much they value the "experience" of the single-class tournament. Be good for a laugh.

Not that Delph would much care. After all, he represents Carmel -- home of one of the largest and best-resourced school districts in the state.

So much for the Little Guy.

Ben Smith's blog.

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