The disappointment to this writer wasn't that the Illinois High School Association decided to expand its state tournament competition from two classes to four classes in basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball, beginning with the 2007-08 school year.

It was the fact that only 57 percent (426) of the association's 752 members cared enough to participate in the process. What kind of message are administrators sending to youth about responsibility when they don't follow through on issues?

The IHSA didn't track which schools took part in the online survey, but executive director Marty Hickman thought more than 600 members would participate.

"We were disappointed because we clearly expected more people to participate," said Hickman. "Everybody had the opportunity and if they didn't, I'm sure they certainly had their reasons."

Still, Hickman likened the vote to a city election.

"If you compare this to a city council election and 57 percent of the voters turn out, you think you've had a pretty good turnout," he said. "And if you had less than that, you're still going to accept the results. The vote was powerful enough information for our Board to act on it."

Hickman said he reviewed the history of when the IHSA went from one to two classes in 1972 and saw similar results.

"More people voted then, but a number of people didn't," said Hickman. "The same kind of disappointment was expressed at that point - that it would have been nice if more of the members had voted.

"I wished we had more people, who would have participated in the process this time, but on the other hand, 57 percent is a pretty good sample of your membership. And I'm not sure if we would have had more that there would have been a different outcome."

Hickman said the feedback he has received since the announcement was made has been varied.

"The general public has clearly been more negative than positive," added Hickman. "From the casual fan to the passionate fan, who isn't associated with a school, the comments are not as supportive.

"We haven't received a lot of feedback from the school people."

Schools will be divided into four classes based on enrollments, but it isn't certain where the breaks will occur.

"We'll go by a percentage of enrollments like we do now," said Hickman.

One would figure the schools with big enrollments didn't participate in the survey because it wouldn't affect them. But Hickman said that wasn't necessarily the case.

"It does affect the big schools because right now they are competing against smaller schools for eight spots in a state tournament," added Hickman. "Under the new plan, they are still going to be competing against the larger schools, but for four spots in a state final tournament."

Hickman said the new plan could have been implemented with or without the 1.65 enrollment multiplier that was voted into effect recently by the IHSA Board of Directors.

"The multiplier was not related to this," Hickman continued. "For schools that are subject to the multiplier (University High School, for example), the new classification system will move them from the largest class to the third largest class.

"For other schools, such as Decatur St. Teresa, they will move up from the smallest class to the second smallest class in the new system. Central Catholic shouldn't be affected."

The state basketball tournaments will be held on the same weekends as they have been in previous years. Four teams from the two smallest classes will head for Peoria and Normal on the current Class A weekends, with the two largest classes playing in the state finals the following weekend.

"The rest of the structure will be virtually unchanged," said Hickman. "The terminology may change, but basically the format will stay the same. The main thing was the decision the Board made to move forward with four classes.

"The Board wanted it to happen in '07-08 because they wanted the staff and the schools a chance to plan things out. We could have done it next year, but felt it was probably better to wait."

Only time will tell if the move is good.

Bryan Bloodworth is the sports editor. Contact him at bbloodworthyayaypantagraph

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