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Coach and Athletic Director

Florida May Eliminate Hoops Semis & Finals In Same Location

Orlando Sentinel, Buddy Collins


Gate receipts for last week's state boys basketball tournament show that more classes, more teams, more games and one more day at the state tournament didn't add up to more fans in the seats.

Rather than rise, attendance dropped for the second consecutive season in Lakeland. That has the Florida High School Athletic Association rethinking its game plan.
At its April meeting, the FHSAA board of directors will discuss scrapping its decades-old, final-four format for team sports. It will consider moving state semifinals to the campus of one of the two competing schools, as is done in football. Only the eight finals would be played at the nuetral host site.

"Logic will tell you that attendance is going to be a lot better if half of those high schools in the semifinals are playing a home game," FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing said. "If they generate more revenue and reduce travel costs for our schools, that's something we need to look at."
Stadium availability at USF prompted the FHSAA to adopt the format for its soccer state tournaments this year. Attendance and expense numbers from the home-site semifinals still are being compiled.

Hoops junkies accustomed to a marathon week of boys basketball will hate this idea. So would semifinal squads that lose. They would trade a state tournament trip for a night in hostile territory.

But there are potential pluses. A big drop in venue rental costs. Less school time missed. And no more 10 a.m. Tuesday tipoffs.

Even with expansion from six classifications and 24 teams at state to this season's eight classes and 32 teams, paid attendance for boys basketball was down from 20,618 in 2010 and 17,749 in 2011 to 17,395 last week.

"Maybe the attendance would go back up if people were more inclined to make that trip for one championship game," Polk County athletic director Don Bridges said of the finals-only concept.

"If they don't come to winner-take-all, I don't know what else you can do."

I'll again suggest a different reduction: cut from eight classes to four.

The average margin of victory in this season's boys hoops finals was a ridiculous 21.1 points, the largest since the state went to four classifications in 1951. The previous high was 19.7 in 1971.

The biggest spread in the years in which the FHSAA had six classes (1994-20011) was 19.1 in 2007. That year included Lake Howell's 43-point victory in the 5A final.

Marquee matchups draw fans. And eight classes stacks the odds against having matchups anybody is excited about.

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