Why the IHSA wants to alter its basketball state finals schedule
PEORIA — The Illinois High School Association altered the schedule of the basketball state finals a couple of years ago. The state's regulating body for high school sports is set to make another change.
The IHSA is embracing a proposal to guarantee its state finals teams a two-day experience. The last two years, teams losing afternoon semifinal games played for third place that same night and then departed.
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"We heard from people, and we listened," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said. "The basketball advisory committee heard it, our directors heard it. We had coaches, member schools talk about it and respond about it on our survey.
"The hope is that there could be some type of schedule that could create a two-day experience."
What is the IHSA finals schedule now?
The IHSA is looking at two proposals to ensure each team that advances to the finals will play their semifinal on one day and the third-place or championship game the following day.
The changes would not take effect until the 2025 tournament, since the IHSA is locked into one more year of three-year deals with CEFCU Arena in Normal for the girls finals and State Farm Center in Champaign for the boys finals.
In the last two years, state semifinals for Class 1A and 2A fell on Thursday morning and afternoon, and third-place games were staged that night. On Friday, the Class 3A and 4A finals followed the same timeline. Saturday was reserved for the four championship games, involving the eight semifinal winners. The semifinal losers, meanwhile, were done playing on the same day they got there.
That sent a rumbling through coaches, parents, players and administrators longing for a multiple-day experience worthy of all the teams there.
"Having all four classes in a single weekend, it is the one thing that continues to be reflected back to us," Anderson said. "We knew it would be a different experience when we initiated that plan. Part of our idea (with the current format) was if fans were traveling a distance to watch a game, they would be more likely to stay to support a consolation game (later that night).
"But we didn't see that happening. The attendance — by looking in the grandstand — was not significantly changed by having consolations on the same day."
No one knows better about the importance of the experience than Class 3A state champion Metamora coach Danny Grieves.
"You work a lifetime to get the state-bound experience," he said. "We've gotten cheated a little bit because it's all jammed into two games over eight hours. I never agreed with that. Any adjustment is welcome."
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Grieves remembers the problems that schedule caused when Metamora went to state two years ago.
"Here we are in double-overtime and they are kicking our fans out of their seats because of the schedule with teams coming in for the next game," Grieves said. "A lot of our fans didn't even get to see it.
"For a lot of high school kids, this tournament is the pinnacle of the basketball they are going to play. It should be special for them, something they'll never forget. Not something that feels rushed. So I'm very glad they are trying to fix this."
What are the IHSA's state finals proposals?
The IHSA board has two proposals to discuss for creating a multi-day, big-event feeling for its girls and boys state finals teams.
Anderson said the board will have those proposals on the table at its June 12 meeting. An approval vote is not etched in stone for that meeting, but the director hinted he expects one and that "a finalized plan should happen."
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Here's a look at the two options, both of which include maintaining championship Saturday and time-shifting the third-place games.
- Thursday's games: Class 1A and Class 2A semifinal games (four total).
- Friday's games: Class 1A 3rd/4th place game; Class 2A 3rd/4th place game.Class 3A and Class 4A semifinal games (four total).
- Saturday's games: Class 3A and Class 4A 3rd/4th place games.Class 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A championship games.
- Thursday's games: Class 1A, 2A, 3A semifinals games (six games total).
- Friday's games: Class 1A, 2A, 3A 3rd/4th place games.Class 4A semifinal games (two total).
- Saturday's games: Class 4A 3rd/4th place game.Class 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A championship games.
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.