The Board of Directors at the Illinois High School Association has for years been considering format changes to basketball championship weekends, ostensibly to stem a trend toward falling March Madness attendance.
Monday, the IHSA announced its first step, which is to condense Final Four weekend for four boys’ classes into one single, three-day weekend and the girls’ classes into another.
The change will be implemented for State Finals tournaments in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
“There has been a great deal of support for this new tournament format over the past few months,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “We tried to be as transparent as possible, communicating the idea and seeking feedback from basketball coaches and school administrators throughout the state in a variety of ways. It was fairly unanimous that most felt like it was an idea worth trying.”
Under the current format, four teams each from classes 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A advance to the State Finals. Semifinals are played on Friday, while third place and championship games are played on Saturday.
Classes 1A and 2A games are played on one weekend while 3A and 4A games are played the following week.
Under the new format, each class for each gender still will send four teams, but all classes will compete on the same weekend, beginning on Thursday. Details regarding when each semifinal game will be played has yet to be determined, but all four championship games will be played consecutively on Saturday.
The girls state tournament will be held first with the boys playing the following weekend. For 2021, that means the girls’ tournament will be March 4-6 and the boys on March 11-13.
The changes also will impact scheduling for regional and sectional tournaments, though the IHSA couldn’t provide further details.
Currently, the boys’ State Finals are held at Carver Arena in Peoria and the girls’ tournament is played at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal. The IHSA will accept bids from other venues in conjunction with the format change.
“We obviously have great relationships with both venues and host communities,” Anderson said. “We fully expect both to bid once again, but believe it’s only fair to open up the process in conjunction with these format changes so that they can evaluate if and how it impacts them. We are not tied to any host format. We’d be open to having both tournaments at the same venue or continuing to have them in separate venues.”