Coaches Discuss the Seeding Process In Illinois High School Basketball [AUDIO]
There's been a whole lot of discussion over the last several years as to why the IHSA continues to treat certain basketball sectionals differently than others.
The current system allows most sectionals (near the Chicagoland area) to seed all teams together, while the other two groups are broken down into smaller regionals. That results in what many call glorified conference tournaments as opposed to a wide-open competition. Some argue that nearly every year a more-talented Stateline area team is left at home while other squads move on through less-competitive regionals.
What do the coaches think about the current system? We asked every coach in the sectional to weigh in on whether to keep the process as-is or change it to seed every team. We also asked if traveling would be a hurdle to making the change.
First, IHSA’s Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha says the power to change the current system doesn't necessarily belong to the coaches and athletic directors:
Seeding is currently a Board Policy, so our Board would have to initiate the change. The Board is made up of school principals and if a group of school principals were to initiate a proposal asking the Board to review it, it would likely have a more significant impact than if the coaches were to.
We also asked Troha about why only two of the eight Class 4A Sectionals break into regional groups of four to eight schools. That includes the Elgin sectional, which contains all 4A NIC 10 members who are located in the Boylan and Belvidere North Regionals:
Because of the close proximity of the schools in Chicagoland, the Board made the policy that those schools could use the Sectional Complex for seeding. Thus, they had to have a defined area. On the map below, if all schools in your Sectional fall within the black line, your Sectional is seeded as a complex.
Among the coaches in the Elgin sectional, Dundee-Crown's Lance Huber says he likes the current seeding process and thinks it should stay the same:
I believe in high school basketball the best team from your area should advance to the sectional.
Here's the audio of our conversation with Coach Huber:
Meanwhile, Rich Czeslawski of Crystal Lake Central says he's been working with the IBCA for the past couple of years in an effort to seed sectionals everywhere the same. But he says it will take action from principals at the schools to enact change:
I believe every team in the state that enters the tournament should be treated the same way, so yes, the 20% or so of the state in predetermined regionals should be changed and seeded through the whole sectional. Further, the Regional hosts should be the Top 4 seeds the way it used to be so you earn the right to host.
Here's our conversation with Coach Czeslawski:
Head coach Matt Peterson of South Elgin believe everyone should be seeded and he doesn't mind the extra travel that might be needed to make it work. He says this year's layout only serves as an example of the problem:
In our regional grouping, we are the 4 seed. We have beaten the 1, 2, and 4 seed from another regional in our sectional. If the entire sectional was seeded, we would seed around the 7-12 range which would give us a chance to upset a higher ranked team. Right now, we have to play Monday and if we win Tuesday. Clearly, this does not benefit us.
Here's our interview with Coach Peterson:
Closer to Rockford, Coach Todd Brannon of Jefferson can't understand why different sectionals have different rules:
I would definitely prefer to seed everybody in the sectional instead of the current format. I don't mind traveling at all! Why seed six of eight sectionals and have the other two already predetermined?
Coach Mike Miller of Hononegah says every team in the state should be treated the same way. And if travel is an issue, he suggest dividing sectionals in half and doing sub-sectionals.
The state will say that they do this because this is how the principals have voted. Unfortunately, people vote for what's best for them individually not what is best for everyone. The Crystal Lake area schools do not want a sectional because regional play guarantees one of their schools advancing. I feel that the IHSA has an obligation as the governing body to do what is right by everyone, not just what people want.
Here's the full interview with Coach Miller:
Boylan's Mike Winters is another coach who wants to see the full sectional seeded:
We work too hard all year to be treated different than the rest of the state. The travel is not that bad in this sectional... Auburn deserves to be the high seed somewhere this year! Not fair at all.
Here's the full conversation with Coach Winters:
Roy Sackmaster, head coach at Rockford East, believes the process needs to be changed to become more consistent with the rest of the state:
I don't understand why our sectional is different from the rest of the state. Travel?...You have some regionals where there are three teams that are good enough to win an entire sectional, much less one of them getting out of the first round. You then will have other regionals that [might] have a team with a losing record win a regional trophy.
Here's our interview with Coach Sackmaster:
Other coaches from the sectional weighed in via email. Here's Coach Martin Manning of Huntley:
Seeding everyone…is the most fair thing to do. Good teams should be rewarded by getting a top seed and having an easier path to a Regional title then what some experience now. Having unbalanced regionals is not fair to good teams….and having mediocre teams win regionals simply because an entire regional is filled with mediocre teams isn’t fair either.
Coach Tom Poulin of St. Charles North:
The format should be consistent throughout the state. It is not the same challenge presented to all. Right now what we have are mini conference tournaments, which detracts from the experience of a state tournament.
Coach Jim Roberts of Jacobs:
I would be in favor of moving to a sectional complex. I would not be opposed to travelling in order to make this work.
Coach Bryan Ott of Auburn:
I have been asking that we seed everyone together, as we did 10-12 years ago. I cannot see anyone seriously objecting to travel. That argument seems rather specious to me...Second, and more importantly, it is inconceivable that the IHSA refuses to see the inequity of running a state tournament with a different seeding process in six sectionals as compared to two.
Coach Paul Kowalyszy of Strasmwood:
For too many years, very good teams are being eliminated early in the regional due to our current system. Also, some strong conferences are being under-represented due to them eliminating each other during regional play...It makes more sense to seed everyone and it makes regular season play even more valuable.
Coach Corky Card of Prairie Ridge:
The Sectional should be seeded to reward the teams that have had a good season, I also believe that the four highest seeds should host the Regional.
Coach Darrin Sisk of Belvidere North:
I am actually indifferent. Seeding it would be great because we would most likely get away from our conference and it is a little disappointing to head into the IHSA tournament and have it actually be an end of the season conference tournament. The negative would be scouting teams that aren’t close to you towards the end of the season.
Coach Dean Martinetti of Guilford:
Absolutely seed everyone. There would be less overall traveling anyway as the top half of the seeds would get at least one and possibly two home games. Currently all but one team is traveling. It would reward teams by letting teams host games who have higher seeds and better season records.
Coach Patrick Woods of St. Charles East:
Seed everyone, I don't mind traveling. It is not a true representation if three of the top teams in the sectional are all in the same regional?
At the same time, it appears that Illinois is not the only state dealing with such questions. Ohio also has many coaches unhappy with their current format.