IHSAA state tournament formats need to be adjusted


Graphic by Tiger Times staff.

IHSAA tournament formats need to be adjusted.

Ben Rosen is a senior and a reporter for Fishers Tiger Times. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. 

     The Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) has many different state tournament formats. This is because each sport has different factors that contribute to their tournament set-up. The amount of classes in a sport, which affects how many teams are in a sectional and the way each sport is played, results in the current format. 

     The current format needs some improvements, however, to better account for these and other factors that previously have not been taken into account. These improvements are needed in team-based sports. 

     Baseball, softball, football, basketball, soccer and volleyball are the official IHSAA sports whose tournament formats need the most change. Many changes that will be suggested can be applied to multiple sports, and some will be applicable to all of those sports in some way. 

     One thing that will remain the same is the enrollment and classification system that determines which class a school is in, meaning the tournament success factor will stay. This basic framework of the tournaments will stay the same because it is the simplest part of the current format. The parts of the tournament contained within that is what needs to change.

     There are three major components of the format that need to change. Those are the lack of seeding within a sectional, the way the designated home team or in the case of football the home team is determined and the way byes within a sectional are handled.

#1: The sectional and regional rounds need to be seeded

     The most important change that needs to be made to the state tournament formats is seeding the sectional and regional rounds. This would reward teams that have a good record with a bye and prevent two highly ranked teams from playing each other until the semifinal or final of a round. 

     The seeding would be determined by the winning percentage of a team, since some teams may not have played the same amount of games. Ties would be broken by head-to-head results and if still tied average class ranking. This would be calculated using the MaxPreps rankings, the coaches association poll and a media poll. 

     The reason that the entire tournament does not need to be seeded is geography. This allows teams to still be able to play within their geographical region until later in the tournament. This also allows for a more fair set up of the sectional and regional tournament brackets than a random draw or a predetermined set of regional semifinal matchups.

#2: The home team designation needs to better account for byes and previous matchups

     Another major change that needs to be made is determining who is the home team within a round. This mainly applies to football, but can be applied to the designated home team in sports that play at a neutral site. The current format could have teams playing another team on the road twice in four weeks in football. 

     The change that would be made in football only applies to the first round or semifinal round, depending on the class. If the matchup is a rematch of a regular season meeting, the game is hosted by the team that was away in the regular season. The remaining rounds would be determined the same way as the current system.

     If a bye is involved in a later round, the team that did not have the bye will have the opposite designation of what they were the previous game. For example, if three-seeded Team C defeats six-seeded Team F at home in a six-team sectional in the first round, then they would be away against their next opponent

#3: Byes need to be handled differently 

     In the current format, sports like soccer pair two bye teams against each other in the semifinal round while the winners of the first round matchups play each other in the semifinals. The seeding would change this because an NFL playoffs-style system should be used. This format would have the semifinal matchups determined based on the seeds.

     Using the aforementioned example from the last section, let us say that five-seeded Team E beats four-seeded Team D on the road. The semifinal matchups would then have Team E hosting Team A and Team B hosting Team C. Since Team E is the lowest seeded team remaining, they would play Team A, the highest-seeded team remaining in the semifinal.

     This would punish the lowest-seeded team and reward the highest-seeded team for having the regular season record that they had. Outside of determining the initial matchups, this is where the seeding would have the largest impact, especially in a sectional that has more than four teams. 


     These changes need to be made to help create a better tournament format and experience that makes the tournament easier to follow for players, coaches and fans. These changes can also create a more exciting state tournament without having to make major changes to the classification system.