BLOOMINGTON - Headlines and talk would suggest issues involving the multiplier, class expansion and threats from a downstate legislator were preoccupying the Illinois High School Association offices on McGraw Street the past few months.
Plans for the inaugural state competitive cheerleading series and voting for the "100 Legends" of boy's basketball are under way. Each has gotten off to a strong start.
In cheerleading, 300 schools have signed up to participate in four divisions. Sectionals will be held on March 4 to determine the 100 teams and more than 1,000 competitors competing in the finals March 10-11 in Normal.
"For a new event it will undoubtedly have more entries than anything else we started," said IHSA executive director Marty Hickman. "It reflects the fact our schools were ready for something like this."
Voting for the "100 Legends," who will be honored at the 2007 state tournament in conjunction with the state's centennial basketball celebration, began on the IHSA's Web site (www.ihsa.org) in mid-December and concludes March 19.
As of late last week, IHSA assistant executive director Scott Johnson said more than 130,000 ballots have been cast.
"Once it rolls around to the regional tournaments and we get more press about the state tournament series, I think the number will skyrocket," said Hickman.
Susie Knoblauch, an IHSA assistant executive director in charge of competitive cheerleading, said those who don't view competitive cheerleading as a sport "will see a new perspective" once they watch the competition unfold.
"The state tournament will offer a great experience for competitive cheerleaders to showcase their talent and athleticism and for fans to see how much the sport has developed over the years," said Knoblauch.
There will be four divisions - large team (enrollments greater than 1,765 with up to 20 participants and four alternates); medium team (enrollment from 660-1,765 with up to 16 participants and three alternates); small team (enrollment smaller than 659 with up to 12 participants and two alternates); and co-ed (with one male on the floor and up to 20 participants with four alternates).
There are 14 area schools entered in the competition.
The Normal West Sectional will include Clinton (small team division); Bloomington, Prairie Central, Pontiac and Streator (medium team); and Normal West (large team).
Dwight, Eureka, Blue Ridge, Heyworth, LeRoy and Fieldcrest are in small team division at the Romeoville Sectional, while Lincoln (large team) and Lexington (co-ed) are at the Macomb Sectional.
The top five finishers in each division at the sectional advance to the state finals. There are seven sectionals, but each sectional doesn't have all four divisions.
"We had some withdrawals because schools entered thinking it was sideline cheerleading instead of competitive cheerleading," said Knoblauch.
Matt Hawkins, who is the sports marketing manager for the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimated the economic impact on the Twin Cities to be about $500,000. That is the same figure as the state volleyball tournament in November.
"We do expect it to grow," said Hawkins.
Nine area players and coaches are included among the 281 names on the ballot - coaches Cal Hubbard (University High) and Ed Butkovich (Mount Pulaski) and players Seth Hubbard and Jeremy Stanton (U High), Harold Hufford and Layard Mace (Bloomington), Bill Braksick (Flanagan), Gary Tidwell (Prairie Central) and Jeff Clements (Mount Pulaski).
The ballot is broken down into seven regions of the state and three tournaments eras - Pioneer (1908 to 1940), Golden Age (1941 to 1971) and Modern Times (1972 to 2005).
Only players and coaches who participated in state tournament finals or super-sectional games were considered.
When the voting ends, threw will be 82 Legends selected. The remaining 18 will be picked by a committee that will consider players and coaches who weren't elected by fans. The committee will also pick officials, media members and friends of the game.
Johnson, the IHSA administrator in charge of the balloting, expects the official announcement to come in late March or early April.
"This has certainly generated a lot of interest, especially about the older players who might have been forgotten," said Johnson. "It's building interest for the 100th year of basketball. It's serving its purpose well."