Prep icon warns against three classes

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana High School Icon is biased and the title of a book written about him says it all: "Bobby Plump: The Last of the Small Town Heroes."...

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana High School Icon is biased and the title of a book written about him says it all: "Bobby Plump: The Last of the Small Town Heroes."

It tells of the story of a basketball kid from a little town called Milan who became a legend in the state when he hit the game-winning shot in the 1954 state championship game. The underlying theme is as old as sports: David vs. Goliath.

Tiny Milan High vs. big Muncie Central.

It was a story line so compelling that the 1986 hit movie "Hoosiers" starring Gene Hackman was patterned after Milan. About the only true-life bond between Plump and the movie were the last 18 seconds of the state championship game but those 18 seconds have the longevity of decades.

Plump has been in high demand as a public speaker and he's not shy about his opposition of Indiana splitting to two classes in the 1990s. Through the years, he's become a poster child of sorts for single class high school basketball in the country.


"I can just say this: if you want to kill the interest of high school basketball in North Dakota, go to more classes," Plump said. "I guarantee you it will kill the interest. I don't know of a state that has gone to more classes that has increased interest."

North Dakota high schools are mulling a proposal to move from two classes to three, essentially splitting the Class B into two classes. Plump only needed a two-minute briefing to render his prediction: revenue will decrease.

It happened in Indiana in 1997. Plump said total attendance dropped almost in half the first year of multiple classes. A television network paid the Indiana High School Athletic Association about $500,000 a year to air the tournament, but the TV contract also had a clause that said if the tournament format were changed, it could cancel the contract, Plump said.

It canceled the contract.

"This is how much it destroyed interest," Plump said. "The IHSAA sent out bids to all TV stations the following year. Nobody replied. One station ended up picking it up for $45,000. The second year attendance decreased some more and they lost more money."

Plump said the decision to go to four classes was made against the wishes of coaches and fans. It was originally billed as a two-year experiment.

After the second year, he said coaches overwhelmingly favored going back to the single class with an 83 percent approval rate.

"But the commissioner said, yes we lost the TV contract and yes, attendance was down and yes, the coaches voted to go back to the old system," Plump said, "but we're going to do what's best for the kids and keep it."


The multiple classes actually assure Plump of his god-like status in state high school history. As long as it remains more than one class, never again will a school as small as Milan win a state title against a school as large as Muncie Central.

"Giving more trophies doesn't necessarily make it better for the kids," he said.

The Forum and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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