Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

The Indiana High School Athletic Association will release enrollment numbers in coming days that will be used to classify team sports, including for the new classification cutoffs for the four-class sports of basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball.

The IHSAA will only release the enrollment numbers it received from the Department of Education, not yet the exact class cutoffs, IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig said. Those cutoffs will be released later in the spring, followed by the sectional alignments in team sports for the next two-year cycle after the executive committee meeting in late April.

The student section wiggles their fingers while a Pendleton Heights Cougars players shoots free throws Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, during the game against the Greenfield-Central Cougars at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton. The Greenfield-Central Cougars defeated the Pendleton Heights Arabians 74-72 in double overtime.

While there will be changes in the six-class sport of football and three-class sport of soccer, the biggest changes will come in the four-class sports. The IHSAA executive committee voted 13-4-1 in June in favor of a classification model that will place the largest 20% of schools in Class 4A, the next 25% in 3A, the next 25% in 2A and the smallest 30% in Class A.

The four-class sports were previously split evenly with roughly 100 teams in each class. Class 4A will have a little more than 75 teams, Neidig said, with about 100 in 2A and 3A, and about 125 in Class A. One of the benefits of the new system, Neidig said, is that all four-class sports will have the same sectional alignments.

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“(Previously) basketball was together, but volleyball was a separate meeting, softball and baseball were separate meetings,” Neidig said. “You missed some common opponents. With this new system, our sectionals are going to look the same, other than the tournament success factor teams. We had to go with more schools in Class A because not all of our Class A schools participate in all of the sports.”

What’s next for IHSAA new classifications?

The next step in the process of classifying the teams for sectional realignment is to put together three alignment committees for football, soccer and the four-class sports. Those committees will be made up of athletic directors and board members.

“We’ll get athletic directors from different sizes, different types of schools together,” Neidig said. “We want to try to fill the perspective from everybody when we put these committees together. It will be a very similar process for all three committees. Then we bring them here to Indianapolis and go sectional by sectional and align these tournaments.”

There is a lot of speculation already about the changes the new classification format will bring. In basketball, successful programs like Cathedral and Crispus Attucks, could be moving from 4A to 3A depending on where the cutoffs fall. With about 20 fewer teams in 4A, sectional week will look different moving forward, too, with mostly five-team sectionals.

The change started with a proposal from the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association to address the widening gap between the largest schools in Class 4A and the smallest (in the most-recent enrollment cycle there were 13 schools with an enrollment of more than 3,200 students and 36 schools with fewer than 1,500 students). The IHSAA executive committee tabled a proposal that would classify 4A as schools with an enrollment of 1,400 and more, 3A from 600-1,399, 2A from 325-599 and Class A as 324 and lower.

The IIAAA had also studied adding a fifth “super class” for the largest schools. The IHSAA executive committee voted in the percentages instead of the enrollment caps, in part to eliminate the idea schools could find a way to stay under a certain number.

Changes to IHSAA tournament success factor

The tournament success factor will undergo a couple of changes moving forward. Instead of a set two-year window for moving teams up, the IHSAA will now apply the success factor annually based on a two-year rolling window. The IHSAA executive committee also changed the threshold to stay up a class from two points to three (teams earn four points for a state title, three for a semistate, two for a regional and one for a sectional).

A team moves up a class if it achieves six points in a two-year cycle. When the tournament success factor was introduced more than a decade ago, the threshold to stay up a class was three points; it was later changed to two.

“We had some who felt like there should be more success than two sectional titles to stay up a class,” Neidig said. “Some people would argue that. But now it would take a least a semistate championship or a sectional and a regional in that cycle.”

Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

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