The Indiana High School Athletic Association just can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to how it runs class tournaments.

We have had more than two decades now to embrace the restructuring of team tournaments in this state. Instead of all teams, no matter their size, competing for one prize like it was before the 1997-98 season, schools are now put into a class based on enrollment. The move was to make the tournaments more fair and to give more kids the opportunity to succeed at the state level. No longer are the tiny little schools expected to play against the much larger ones in tournament play. The days of a “Hoosiers” scenario are a thing of the past.

I don’t like class tournaments other than in football, never have and never will. I think all the IHSAA did was water down state tournaments. Just look how tournament attendance has dropped for the crown jewel of high school sports in this state — the boys’ basketball tournament. Fans don’t seem to have the same interest as they once did.

But I have come to accept the class system. It’s what we have been given, so we have to deal with it.

But as the old coach Lee Corso likes to say when making college football predictions, “Not so fast my friend.” The IHSAA has found another way to penalize success. It seems like if you are dominant in your class, against schools your size, you are to be punished. But class tournaments were suppose to level the playing field, right? It does, but only for good, bad or mediocre teams. In the case of a powerhouse like the Providence volleyball program, for example, there is a different set of rules.

Saturday, Providence lost in the regional final to Center Grove in the Class 4A Bloomington North Regional. Providence finished the year 29-2, another great season for the tradition-rich program. Coach Terri Purichia does such a great job. She played for a legend, Dottie Zipp, and has become one herself.

So what was Providence doing in a Class 4A tournament, playing against schools three to four times its size? That doesn’t sound fair and wasn’t the class system suppose to rectify these types of scenarios? I mean Providence, a school with 389 students, played Center Grove, with an enrollment of 2,500. How did this happen?

Well, under the IHSAA rule, if you have too much success against schools your size, you have to be moved up because we can’t reward success. It’s hypocrisy and stupidity all rolled up together. We have a class tournament where teams play against similar-sized schools, but if one school is too good, we are going to move them up a level or two — teach them a lesson, I guess that hard work sometimes is not rewarded. Great job IHSAA.

The more success you have and it seems the IHSAA will find a way to punish you. No way can we have a team dominate every year, that’s just not fair to all those poor kids who are on losing teams. We have to celebrate mediocrity. It doesn’t matter if a team is playing against schools its own size, or if it out-worked or out-coached its opponent. It’s just not fair, according to the IHSAA.

You see, Providence won two 2A state volleyball championships, against schools its own size, and followed those up with a 3A title. In the same five-year stretch, the Pioneers were state runner-up twice. That’s a pretty good run, one to be celebrated.

But the IHSAA, in its quest to not hurt feelings or make others feel like losers, does not know how to celebrate success. Instead of Providence having four or five state championships and a bigger volleyball dynasty than it already has, it was punished and moved all the way up to the 4A level. As good as they are, there is no way the Pioneers can consistently maintain dominance against schools six times larger, as was the case Saturday. Center Grove had four Division I players on the court Saturday.

I just can’t figure out what the IHSAA is trying to accomplish with its class tournaments. We either stick with the class system or we scrap it. Just because one school dominates a certain sport is no reason to punish that school. It should be considered incentive for others to work harder and try to knock off the king of the hill.

How is this fair to Providence or any small school that enjoys success at a team sport? How can those who make decisions at that level say this is fair? There is nothing fair about it. All you are doing is punishing success when we should be applauding it. I mean Providence has already established itself in the last decade as a Southern Indiana volleyball powerhouse, but had the school not been punished for its winning ways, there is no doubt they would have won two or possibly three more state championships.

While sports are suppose to get our minds off the political rhetoric and other national news of the day, sometimes that crud seeps into something as pure as a high school tournament. So when you hear a politician say it’s not fair that some people have more success or higher standing than others, all you have to do is think about the shaft Providence’s volleyball program has received the last few years. We sometimes as a people denounce success instead of applauding it. The IHSAA seems to have perfected this, even when it tried to level the playing field.

High school athletics teach kids so many values ... that win or lose, hard work and perseverance are always rewarded.

But that is not the IHSAA’s definition of high school sports. The organization that is suppose to promote athletic competition and the good that comes from high school sports is doing the exact opposite.

Maybe the Providence kids did learn something valuable Saturday. Just how unfair life can be to those who do everything right and play by the rules.

— Assistant Editor Chris Morris can be reached at chris.morris@newsandtribune.com and 812-206-2155.

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