IHSA considering major format change to state basketball tournament

Morgan Park wins the IHSA Class 3A state championship game against Springfield Southeast, Saturday 03-17-18. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Morgan Park wins the IHSA Class 3A state championship game against Springfield Southeast, Saturday 03-17-18. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Anyone that has attended one of the state final basketball tournaments in Peoria over the last several years is well aware that there is a problem. Attendance is down and there just isn’t much atmosphere or buzz. Something needs to change.

Most fans and media are in agreement that the change from two classes to four classes in 2008 was a mistake, but there are several other factors at play. There are more outlets competing for eyeballs than ever before, from Netflix to Fortnite to the increased television availability of the NCAA Tournament.

The Illinois High School Association finally seems ready to take action. Peoria’s hosting contract ends after the 2020 tournament. The IHSA will accept bids from other cities and venues to host, but that is a story for another day.

The big news now is that the IHSA board “intends to seek feedback” on playing both the small school and the big school state tournaments on one three-day weekend. So instead of a two-day Class 1A/2A weekend and a two-day Class 3A/4A weekend all four classes would play on the same weekend. One immediate benefit is that everything would wrap up before the NCAA Tournament begins.

The IHSA doesn’t have any specific proposal yet but has confirmed to the Sun-Times that the third place games would remain and that all four title games would be played on Saturday.

Knowing that makes it is fairly easy to assemble a likely schedule:

Afternoon session
1A semifinal
1A semifinal

Night session
2A semifinal
2A semifinal

Morning session
1A third place
2A third place

Afternoon session
3A semifinal
3A semifinal

Night session
4A semifinal
4A semifinal

Morning session
3A third place
4A third place

Afternoon/Night session
1A championship
2A championship
3A championship
4A championship

What do you think of the proposed change? Sound off in the comments. I’ll be talking with coaches and fans over the next few days and follow up with some of their opinions.


  • CJenB

    Move it back to Champaign! With the State Farm gleamingly remodeled, it is now a showplace and the state tourney belongs there. It is a better location to travel for everyone in the state. That arena in Peoria is a dump. Our high school’s team was the runner-up and state champion in 2017/2-18 so I am speaking from personal experience. According to the CU News-Gazette, the group making a bid in Champaign plans to work with local hotels to make it more fan friendly. People that think IHSA will move from the 4A class system back down to 2 are delusional. That’s not happening. I do like them putting the whole thing on the same weekend and the fan experience will be better in SFC versus shoving the student sections in a corner where they have a bad view. Also, I attended the girls state finals in 2003 at ISU and it was not a great atmosphere. Peoria is on the way down and Champaign is on the way up. Don’t screw this up IHSA!

  • Luke

    Only one state champion. Just think of the comment, state champions. You cannot have more than one champion. If schools knowingly recruit it is up to the rest of the teams to refuse to play them, and basically shunned them out of the competition. Don’t leave it up to the ihsa, simply do not play them in the regular season or in a tournament. I love Chicago and think it’s great. But it is not where the state tournament should be. It is fine where it’s at in Peoria, centrally located. If not Peoria then maybe Bloomington. But definitely not champagne and not Chicago.

  • TP

    REDBIRD ARENA or Chicago. All State Arena would be great. Sears Centre. The state finals would be packed up here. 2 class system as well. How many more years of an empty Peoria and more and more restaurants closing down around there do we need to have until we finally make a change and try something new! Everyone agrees it’s broken, so try something new to fix it. The overhaul is long overdue.

  • Rick Sandberg

    This is the 51st year for myself, and about 20 family and friends. Peoria is much better venue than Champaign was. The real problem is that there are too many classes. I think 3a and 4a could be combined and very competitive. I like the idea of 8 teams on Friday, with 4 advancing to the Saturday games. I’m not too keen on playing 4 championship games on Saturday. Chicago would be a terrible venue.

  • 50 year alum

    Well you asked for comments and opinions and you sure got them over 80 so let’s break it down. The majority think getting it out of Peoria is the best idea period! The next best idea is to go back to the 2 class system. Champaign seems to be the obvious place to return the tournament to. The w.ay they determine what class you are in should be sorted out by talent not enrollment know why CPL wins so many titles if you think 2A schools from central or southern I’ll. Can compete with teams from the city it’s a joke not when you have the whole city and 8 transfers to recruit from the CPL is the reason why all these systems need to be changed. Real fair to see teams that have a small district to recruit from vs the whole city of Chicago.Any fool that thinks bringing it to Chicago would be beneficial is dreaming everything in Chicago and Crook County is so over priced plus how many people won’t come just because of the crime factor. I said it in an earlier comment everything in the city is over priced hotels,parking,food and especially the 10% tax on everything. See if a hotel room in Chicago is cheaper than in all other parts of the state.Not many folks feel safe walking the streets of Chicago that live there. So if the IHSA thinks that coming to Chicago with the tourney is a good idea well they are more stupid than we think.

  • M Bonk

    How about they do the right thing and go back to one tournament with everyone playing for the same title? That is when the tournament was most popular. People love great championship teams – and the Cinderella teams.

  • Michael Sowell

    I’d love to see the tourney at the United Center. Switching back to a 2A system would make the tournament much more competitive. Consolidating the championship games is also a good idea.

  • Will Bradford

    Does anyone really care about these state final games or a trip to Peoria?

    Real fans are in Arizona watching the Cubs get ready for the season. You want me to skip Cubs spring training to go to Peoria? If I am in Peoria in March, it is to watch the Cubs play the Mariners or Padres in Peoria, Arizona!

  • Mike Bednar

    I like the idea of going to one weekend for the state finals. This year will be my 51st state tournament. I miss the glory days of when we had great coaches who built teams through their school system. The open enrollment recruiting that goes
    On in the CPS and private schools has ruined the tournament for a lot of fans. That said, not competing with the NCAA tourney will help attendance. Eliminate the third place games, many states have already done that. Four classes was a mistake, three classes would be better. The State Farm center is a better facility, Peoria offers more local entertainment for adults, March Madness experience next to Carver Arena great for young kids, families. Attendance in a Chicago venue would not be better, high profile high school games played in venues close to Chicago are poorly attended, supersesecrional, public league playoffs are an example. Another nice feature about Peori is the ability to walk to the arena, restaurants and some hotels. Finally, a major problem with sagging attendance is that CPS schools and private don’t have a community fan base like a Quincy or a Collinsville, where the tourney is played won’t fix that problem

  • Jay

    Too many classes

  • robert mapp

    How about A real final four The winner of each class, A1,A2,A3,A4 Have a final 4 at the new DePaul Wintrust Arena got for surrounding hotels.

  • 50 year alum

    If anyone thinks that moving the tournament to Chicago is a good idea just wait until you see what a rip off the city is. Hotel prices totally out of line parking ha what a joke if you think they won’t rob you blind on that you have to be kidding the city must be licking their chops figuring out ways to take advantage of everyone. The city taxes on everything is such a ripoff .if you think about it you will pay more to park that you will the actual price of a ticket. And I even haven’t said a word about crime yet. In a city that averages 500 murders a year that alone is enough to scare people. So when you add it all up it would be so foolish of an idea to consider Chicago I can hear the politicians just saying or thinking wow another way to steal from people because that’s what they do!

    • Jake Perales

      Peoria signed up for the tourney to help Manual win 4 in a row. Central won 2 as well. But now with Peoria bball struggling so is attendance. And the crime rate in Peoria is worse than Chicago’s. Time to change the venue. Evanston?

  • Will I am

    IHSA is the biggest joke in town !!

  • A Bos

    Peoria is a central place in the state that did great job in the early years. Most fans could park car on Thursday or Friday and not go back til Sunday morning. The early years you couldn’t find a ticket on Friday for Saturday’s games. Now you can walk up to the ticket booth and buy ten minutes before the game. Why is it that the best seat are always taken by the same people every year. How about a lottery system. Then the prices starting sky rocketing. The concession prices in the Civic Center or ridiculous. An average family cant go down and pay 3-4 bucks for a bottle of water. The food venders should be embarrassed to ask a grade school or high school kid for 5 bucks for a hot dog. This is not the NCAA or NBA. Hotels have closed leaving the rest to jack the prices and hold the fan at gun point. I attended the tournament for 15 straight years until it got so out of control, I quit going, who is to blame, IHSA, city of Peoria. The IHSA really screwed it up going to 4 classes and there is no going back. They need to find a way to fix it and it may not be possible. The difference in talent between the 1 and 2 A is night and day. With only four teams in the tournament, you don’t get the fan base or the Cinderella team that every one cheers for if they don’t have a team down there.The only good this is that somebody finallllllllly realized it is screwed up and hopefully you can try and make it better.

  • CP3

    Take it back to U of I. Nothing against Peoria.
    2 classes, 3 day weekend, & bring back elite 8!!!
    Ned some type of concession from hotels on pricing. Come to some agreement for tv rights, so the UNCOMMON fan can watch without having to pay $$ for streaming service.

    U of I….in its heyday as the finals site,got players to stay home. Coincidence? I think not!

  • deejay

    You can’t turn back the clock. The generation of folks responding here are the only remaining fans who are true fans of high school basketball, not just one particular program. IHSA will never cut the number of classes for anything. Playing state finals all on the same day is good, I guess, but fans won’t come back because students don’t attend high school games anymore. They won’t jump on the bandwagon like in the past, because they’re out there participating on their own teams. They want to play—not watch. Adult fans will never fill any big arena for the IHSA finals now. You’re living in the past if you think the crowds will come back. Location of the state finals doesn’t matter and I guarantee moving the big schools to Chicago is not the answer.

  • Ihsa money seekers

    Peoria is a dump. Keeping it there was a poor decision. I agree with that moving to four classes was a mistake made only for financial reasons. The old 8 team format was wonderful. Making state meant more than placing second does now. Find a new location for the tournament. Bloomington?

  • Lefty

    Unfortunately, all the charter schools bloat 3A with non competitive teams. 4 classes: 2 true public, 2 open boundary.

    • Leegs1

      Would open boundary include Chicago schools?

      • Lefty

        If a school draws from the whole city then of course. The open boundary exemptions started in the early-mid 80s when King was designated as a biology (I think) specialty school to exempt them from regular transfer rules. Not sure if this rule helped Nick Anderson transfer from Prosser to Simeon or he actually moved.

        • Leegs1

          If no boundary includes private and chicago schools, I’m all for it. What’s your solution for the transfer problem?

          • Lefty

            I don’t know if i have one. If awesome players that can’t win on their own all want to transfer to (example) Naperville North or Fenton or Oak Lawn Richards, why shouldn’t they be able to, as long as they actually move. Is all CPS open boundary now? I didn’t think so, but I don’t know. I gave a bigger problem when the coaches get accolades for actually building something, when they didn’t. My problem for visiting the website often I guess.

          • Red South-Central

            Transfer problem? The real problem is that the suburbs get 4 teams to qualify down state that don’t belong. Nobody wants to see these weak teams play. They should seed teams by ranking not by geography. That would help attendance the most.

  • Chuck

    Ohio has a 4 division bracket.
    Div 1 large schools plays 2 semifinal games on Friday 5:15 and 8:30 with finals Saturday night at 8:30

    Div 2 next size down schools plays semifinals on Friday 10:45 and 2:00 with finals at 5:15 on Saturday

    Div 3 plays semifinals on Thursday at 5:15 and 8:30 with finals at 2:00 on Saturday

    Div IV small schools play semifinals Thursday at 10:45 and 2:00 with finals at 10:45 Saturday morning.

    I used to go to these games and it was a great atmosphere. Of course the games are played on the campus of Ohio State. They use to play in the old St John Arena now the Schottenstien Center. This was a great time had by all. You could see all the different levels play and schools would bring the whole school on the day of the game to cheer the teams on.

  • Michael Brown

    If you want to change the atmosphere and get more people to attend, give the schools and their student bodies the best seats. Currently they stick the schools and their fans in the corners. They could give schools the court side seats for their games with a corresponding seat in the corner or 2nd deck for the other game of the session. If the most important fans were given the most important seats it would change the atmosphere immediately.

    • Coach Mike

      I don’t think so. I have been going down state since 1984. I earned my mid court seat in the 3rd row. I pay $600 for those 10 seats every year. If I elect to not pay, and take a year off, I loose my seats. Current format has student section in end zones (general admission), behind the baskets. Parents and teachers get those corner seats, and there not bad seats. Cheerleaders there in corner too. Between students and parents.

      • Michael Brown

        I appreciate the fact that you have had those seats and are committed to going. I just ask you to picture what the atmosphere would be like in that stadium if the schools were in the lower sections facing each other and the court. There isn’t a bad seat in the place really, I go spread out where I get a lot of room.

        • Coach Mike

          Nobody wants that place at capacity more than you and I. As you know, there are 4 participating schools in each session. Giving each a corner of arena seems logical. They get lower bowl (corners), those in upper bowl corners (students) can now stand /sit behind the basket (same side as their bench) during their game. Thus placing those invested in the schools participating in the lower bowl.

  • David piper

    Keep Peoria. They do a great job. Easiest to get to. Need seperate tourney for private schools.

  • Dale W.

    The solution is simple the IHSAneeds to accept that 4 class was a huge mistake. And it is very fixable go back back to 2 class tournament. And the fans will be back.

    • Scott

      4 classes was the worst decision in IHSA history. two classes and get it out of that funeral home they call the civic center and you’re in business.

  • William McAtee

    One class. Champaign. Public TV. Better media coverage. That days it all. I can’t even find media coverage of the state tournament in the newspapers. And what little there is, isn’t very good. The state tournament used to be the biggest news in Illinois in March. It was broadcast on local non cable stations. Covered well by local papers. When I was a kid, everybody knew who Proviso East, Thornton, Thornridge, Quincy, and Collinsville were. We all knew about Vergil Fletcher, John Thiel, Sherrill Hanks, Rich Herrin, and other great coaches. Ditto for Jim Brewer, Rich Yunkus, Dike Eddleman, Max Hooper, and of course Quinn Buckner. Now, maybe a few people know who E.J.Liddel is. It’s gone way down. The tournament has been watered down to four meaningless championships, and the IHSA has watered down their sports programs with too many sports.

  • Bob Farley

    Go back to two classes at U of I! Drop third place games. This would bring quarter finals back to Friday at Champaign also. Make them hold hotels to normal rates. Encourage coaches from teams not in state finals to bring 5 kids from their team to boost attendance.

  • BC

    They need to bring the state championship to metropolitan chicago, period! This is the only way you are going to generate more fan interest. Not just fans that are affiliated with these high schools but the occasional basketball fan. People are just not interested in driving down state, unless it is there team, to watch the state championships. You can attempt to reorganize it, or put it back to the two class system but you will still have the same problem. It’s almost like trying to straighten chairs on the Titanic, it’s still sinking

  • Jim Karwoski

    It was great at U of I for many years. Put it back

  • Darin Blair

    back to 2 classes. old format. Champaign. Assembly Hall.

  • Garrett Thum

    I like the 3 day idea. Peoria is perfect for the State Finals because it’s smack dab in the center of the state and has phenomenal facilities to hold such an event! Grrreeeaaattt idea going to three days and all 1st place games on Saturday! Wonderful idea!!

  • Flyers Fan

    Move it back to Champaign U of I. Then control the hotel prices so they wont rip the fans off. Go with the knew format. It should be a GREAT turnout.

  • Mike Storment

    I like Champaign .I like the format. Don’t change the 4 classes. Wonder about the cost of 3 days in a hotel.

  • Melvin Nunn

    It would be a great weekend of Illinois High School Basketball.And a whole lot of money made….

  • Truth

    Forget about Hotel price… it’s simply more stuff to do in Champaign…. Bars, Restaurants, actual parties! FUN!!!

  • Truth

    U OF I floor… and combine 1,2 and 3,4 classes….. now Morgan park can’t hide……LOL

    • Red South Alumnus

      This may seem like a bright idea to you but this is only a 2 class system. Morgan Park has 3A enrollment just like Orr has 2A enrollment. Don’t get mad because they can hoop. Those schools don’t complain about the lack of resources they have so stop complaining about them dominating with less.

      • Leegs1

        “Dominating with less”: I assume you’re not talking about transfers, just facilities?

        • LeMoore Jones

          Just dont single out Morgan Park. Every team in the final 4 for City has an tranfer ! Dont be quick to single out one school. Idk if youre child wasnt good enough to play against top competition or what the hate is on MP, dont take it out on us because its not thousands of kids in the school.

          • Leegs1

            Wasn’t singling out Morgan Park. Was including Orr in my reply! But, to be honest, I do not like Morgan Park’s crybaby coach.

      • Wscfantoo

        Anyone can play up. If you’re good, prove it over 5 quality teams, not 1 (if that). Total coward.

    • LeeMoore James

      I was speaking on the Morgan Park cant hide matter. But how can someone be a coward that gets all his kids in divison 1 , or in school peorid. Just cause maybe your child probably cant handle the irvins or winning dont talk about them. Because you wouldnt dare that say to that man face.

      • Wscfantoo

        You can educate me on ‘all his kids’. Moore followed Cuonzo to Cal, which is interesting when my 33act daughter didn’t get into Cal. (Now he gets coffee for Bill Self.). And of course Ayo, whose entourage would not let THT go to Illinois. I’ll let you know where my son plays in a couple years.

  • PistolPete44

    IHSA wonders why the interest is down….easy, when you have to have cable to watch the game and it is no longer free to all the people of the state then if I cannot watch it why would I be interested in it.

  • PistolPete44

    I would go to 3 classes. Class 1
    produces a very week group of teams. And that is with many teams out there already co-opting and they still are small. This is not supposed to be a participation trophy but instead when you make state it is actually “Special”. Many small towns have lost interest in the bragging rights from the co-opting. In fact, this whole state is not longer good at much of anything. No wonder there is less interest. The dirty barn they play in at Peoria is part of the,problem. Missouri holds it at Columbia as do many other states as IHSA went for profit over honor and accomplishment when they allowed CAT to but the tournament.

    • Smokey joe

      I dont agree YOU NEED to be good any
      Class TO GET to Peoria NEVER SHOULD
      One weekend super

  • Coach B

    Format is perfect. Move it to Chicago. Everyone else has it in either their state capitol/flagship school or largest city. We have DePaul (Lincoln Park), DePaul (Downtown), U of Chicago, Chicago State, United Center, Northwestern to serve as host sites…Although DePaul/McCormick Place seems most suitable for the fan experience. There are hotels and food EVERYWHERE. City Colleges can host team shootarounds/practices…There are host of enrichment experiences available to school communities…etc. It’s our turn.

    • Flyers Fan

      Please dont go to Chicago. Everything there is over priced. Take it back to U of I. Keep it centrally located like they do foitball

      • Lefty

        A moms or dads weekend hotel in Champaign is minimum 200, nicer rooms closer to 350. Per night.

      • B-ball

        U of I again. Bring it back to the flagship school. The campus itself provides a better experience for the students fan base etc.

  • Darren

    Tournament should never be in Chicago. That would be the worst decision ever.

  • Tom in Vernon Hills

    I am open to moving the location away from Peoria but to say that it is every kids dream to play in Champaign as Stewart Andrews did is incorrect.

    To me a move closer to Chicago for 3A and 4A would help attendance. Keep 1A and 2A down south and move the other two up north.

    Lastly, I don’t think things have been the same since the move to four classes when 8 teams qualified for a trip downstate. That made for a great weekend of basketball from the quarters on Friday to semis and final on Saturday. Unfortunately I don’t think the powers that be would ever go back to the two class system or even three class system.

  • Michael J Czerwonka

    Well, the IHSA has managed to screw up foitball for next year , so just leave basketball alone , but that is too late also because you made changes to that starting next year also and not for the good.
    Class 1a and 2a boys schools has good attendance but 3a and 4a never bring the fans, because the Chicago schools do not have the bigger fan base.
    If your going to change the tournament have class 1a and 2a held at SIU Carbondale and 3a and 4a up North. Hotel prices won’t be outrageous and crowds will be good.

  • Collin

    If they’re going to have four classes one class needs to co rain all private schools and open enrollment schools. As far as the tourney goes, if the afternoon games are not teams that you might end up playing there is less interest in showing up to watch.

  • Red South Alumnus

    And this suggested format would drive hotel prices even higher because of higher demand. More congestion in the streets, restaurants, etc. I understand they want a full stadium but the late games won’t show up for the early games and vice versa. Let’s try moving the game to Champaign or Chicago before the consolidated weekend.

  • Red South Alumnus

    Four classes is not the problem. Football has 8 classes. The problem is mainly Peoria and possibly the time conflicts with the NCAA. But also I don’t think the students go to games even locally as much as we did in the 90’s. Look at the complaints with the Holiday Tournaments.

    And for those suggesting to go back to a Public League automatic qualifier you sound like MBGA (Make Basketball Great Again). The removal of the automatic qualifier gave you a chance to have no Public League teams make it downstate but instead we made the best of it. There has always been teams who didn’t win City who could have won State. Don’t be a sore loser.

  • Jim Dean

    I want the old supersectional and tournament format with A and AA classes on two different weekends like it used to be. Girls the same way!

  • Bill Palmer

    get rid of 3rd place games, fools!

  • Mike Hampton

    Need the 2 class system. Was wrong to change.

  • Philip J Wayne

    We need to go back to the two-class tournament, back in Champaign.

  • Nobody

    Lol at those folks that want CPS to go back to one rep. Must be bitt hurt that CPS dominates. How fair is it that schools from Central IL or downstate can have more than one rep yet and size of school is the excuse yet CPS can not and they have smaller schools too? Smell butt hurt and dare I say something else. Get your weight up and play ball. Stop giving kids participation trophies for winning bull crap tournaments against medicore teams, then crying when they face real comp and get beat…

  • Officially Speaking

    Having it in Campaign is not a dream for everyone. Peoria is more centrally located and even Bloomington is more centrally located. Either way they could have this at the United Center and kids would be more excited about that location. Illinois has not been good in a long time and anyone that plays good basketball in the state does not go there.

    I like the format but please stop telling everyone how Champaign is the only place to be. There are many places that can hold this tournament.

  • Kurt Lukan

    I too like the new format proposal. The tournament absolutely needs to go back to Champaign, especially with this new format.

  • Illininutt

    They moved to Peoria because the hotels charge 2-3 times more on Championship Weekend. Now Peoria does that. I used to go in the 60’s and early 70’s but have gone only once since! Best to sit on my couch and watch it at home. Let the younger hoop fans take over.

  • Coach Davis

    I like the new format there proposing … And please don’t ever go back to the 2 class playoff…

  • Stewart Andrews

    Tournament belongs at the university of Illinois that’s every Illinois kids dream is to play on that floor

  • Stewart Andrews

    That sounds like the best news I’ve heard since I competed in 79 thru 81 for Galesburg. Let’s get it done

  • Patrick McCormack

    GO BACK TO 2 CLASSES! And go back to Champaign. Send CPS back the Public League tourney for their downstate rep. Problems solved.

    • Red South Alumnus

      Looks like somebody is tired of the public league racking up state championships. We don’t need an automatic qualifier. We want to earn it just like everyone else.

      • Darren

        It’s not that you don’t have good teams it’s that they never bring any crowds. Even when it was in Champaign.

        • Red South Alumnus

          Our schools (and families) don’t have the funds to send busses of kids. Our teams bring the other teams fans out to watch though.

          • jwatjr

            And that is why you move it to Chicago. The families that cant afford to travel dont have to. The downstate teams will travel and follow their teams, especially the smaller towns.

  • cg

    the way this state is shrinking in population and the number of 1a schools consolidating; soon they’ll have to go to 3 classes or maybe back to two and then you wont need that many days worth of games.

  • Bill Ellerby

    It’s about time. You’ll now have the opportunity to see one great day of championship high school basketball. I’d vote Champaign where it was played when I was a kid. Bill

  • Marc

    Back to Champaign? Thats where is was when we went downstate in the 80’s..

  • Tony Colston

    Sounds great. Now get it out of Peoria!! Worst IHSA decision of all time!! Chicago, or even Springfield!

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