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A New Era for Hoosier Basketball

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Indiana has lost a piece of tradition--and perhaps a bit of its soul. The board of directors of the Indiana High School Athletic Association voted 12-5 last week to split high schools into four classes for championship basketball play, ending the state's 90-year-old tradition of having a single winner. Next year's boys' basketball tournament will be the last in which a single team is crowned from all 385 high schools in the state.

The move closes a statewide debate that's raged for months. A dozen Indiana television stations covered the April 29 vote, with several of them interrupting regular programming with live reports on the decision.

Critics have argued that the change will spoil Indiana's passion for the game, which was captured in the 1986 hit movie "Hoosiers." Kentucky, Delaware, and Hawaii are the only other states with single-class basketball. (See Education Week, April 17, 1996.)

"We will no longer be looked on as special," Jason Crowe, the executive director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, said last week.

Supporters of multi-class basketball argued that small schools could not compete with their big-school neighbors. Also, the state's football championship, which was expanded to five classes in 1985, has rebuilt community pride in areas bitter over school consolidations, said Jim Russell, a spokesman for the state athletic association. The smaller schools that win in football "have seen what that success has done for their communities in terms of unity," Mr. Russell said.

--Drew Lindsay

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