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Ben Smith

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Basketball class issue was never in jeopardy

– So, no more Milans, as the IHSAA stays a course it was always was going to. Or, a Milan every year, depending on how you see this latest episode of “The Walking Dead,” aka Class Basketball Is An Affront To Man, God And Jimmy Chitwood, Too.

The hard truth here, now that the latest attempt to turn back the clock has failed?

This “debate” was dry bones and dust long before state Sen. Mike Delph – R-Carmel, R-1955 – dug it up, so no surprise it fell flat. Delph would have had a better shot digging up Lincoln and Douglas and having them debate slavery again than resurrecting a matter that’s been 15 years in the ground, and that’s the plain truth of it.

And so, on Friday, the IHSAA announced the results of the class-basketball surveys forced on it by Delph, then said to hell with ’em. Class hoops will remain, and only Delph, presumably, was shocked, shocked.

“While there exists a segment of Hoosier citizens that would support a return to single-class basketball … (the IHSAA membership) has once again demonstrated strong support for the current format,” IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said.

And, no, you’re not dreaming if you detect a huge eye-roll at the words “a segment of Hoosier citizens,” because surely Cox must have stifled that impulse a few times in all this. If 68.09 percent of those who attended the statewide meetings voted to return to yesteryear, it’s because the demographic of those meetings was male, north of 40 and inclined to begin its public remarks with, “You know, back when I played …”

That’s how it was the night they kicked this off at Northrop, where the absence of relevant opinions was stark. The single-class crowd turned out in force; the kids who had the only stake that mattered in all this, not so much.

So the results were skewed right off the hop, not that it mattered in any evident. Truth is, this is not 1955 anymore, or 1997, for that matter. Bob Gardner might have driven a stake through Hoosier Hysteria that year, but even then it wasn’t what it had been, with interest and attendance slowly but surely eroding.

It’s been my habit over the years to cite, as evidence of the enduring resonance of Hoosier Hysteria, tiny Daleville’s triumph over mighty Anderson in the 1985 Anderson Sectional.

But 1985 is 27 years in the rearview now, and the kids from that Daleville team are all in their 40s. And even then, it was an anomaly unlikely to be repeated.

More the norm were all those farcical Marion sectionals I covered, where Bill Green’s Giants had no more chance of losing to Oak Hill or Elwood than America has of losing a war to Lichtenstein. And that was a quarter-century ago.

Now?

Now it would be even more ludicrous, and impractical besides. Too many little towns have signs at the city limits that read “Home of the (Pick A Year) Class A State Champions” to make a return to the glory days possible, and they wouldn’t be the glory days, anyway.

The world, even in Indiana, has changed enormously since Bobby Plump hit The Shot Heard ’Round The World, and it’s not going to magically change back.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as people think, that if you change class basketball it’s going to be the mid-1970s again,” East Noble athletic director Reif Gilg said Friday.

“I think a lot more things have changed.”

Like it or not.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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