The Illinois high school basketball finals are where the term March Madness was coined.
The NCAA basketball tournament, where the phrase is most often used now, has been hurting attendance at the prep finals in recent years. So, the Illinois High School Association is making the girls and boys state tournaments one weekend each in early March.
Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha said the IHSA hopes giving fans more options in one weekend will encourage them to stay longer.
“People today are busier than ever, there’s more things going on, so we thought a one-weekend format maybe that draws more common fans and brings more people to hopefully create a better atmosphere and environment for participating students," Troha said.
Troha said the IHSA also hopes giving fans more options by playing all four classes at one venue over one weekend will encourage them to stay longer.
He referred to examples where fans would be more inclined to watch a nearby school from another class if they were already at the finals, but they might not make a second trip the following weekend.
“Hopefully when we have those situations, maybe people will be more likely to stick around and watch another local team or a team with maybe some people they would know on it,” Troha said.
The IHSA and coaches have been exploring ways to boost attendance at the state basketball finals for several years.
The boys finals have been held at Carver Arena in Peoria since 1996 and the girls finals at Illinois State University in Normal since 1992.
The IHSA will open bids for both finals in two years.
“We obviously have great relationships with both venues and host communities,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “We fully expect both to bid once again, but believe it’s only fair to open the process in conjunction with these format changes so they can evaluate if and how it impacts them.
“We are not tied to any host format.”
Troha said the IHSA plans to assess the new format over three years and decide after 2023 if it wishes to keep the new format.
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