IHSA's Emphasis on Geographic Representation Ensures Unfairness
Byline: Dave Miller
Imagine you are a high school student in a math class. You've done all your homework throughout the semester and aced all the tests before the final.
You study hard and sit at your desk confidently knowing you are prepared to do well on the final. The teacher walks by and hands you a test. You breeze through the first couple problems and then...
You find a real tough problem. And another. And another. What's going on here?! These problems are supposed to become more difficult gradually and there's only supposed to be a few real tough ones at the end!
You feel like you've been blindsided, but do your best even though you know the odds are against you. At least everyone's in the same boat, right? You turn in your test with a sinking feeling and walk out of class hoping for the best.
But it only gets worse.
When discussing the test with your classmates, you're surprised to discover that not everyone had as hard of a time as you. Then comes the mind-blowing part: Not everyone received the same test. Some students took a test full of easy problems while others were given a test with a much higher degree of difficulty.
You return to class the next day and complain to the teacher that the final was unfair. "It was fair," she tells the class. "Everyone had the same chance to receive one of the tests."
Dumbfounded, you ask the teacher why she changed her testing ways for the final.
"Because I wanted the students at the back of the class to have the same chance to receive a good grade as those in the front," she says. "And I wanted some of the students who sit by the window to do as well as some of those who sit by the wall."
You wind up receiving a C in the class while a bunch of students you outscored all semester receive As and Bs.
Okay, you can stop imagining now. If this really happened, how long do you think it would be allowed to continue?
That's what I thought.
That's why I'm amazed the Illinois High School Association's state tournaments have been operated in such a blatantly unfair manner for so many years.
The IHSA's "geographic representation" philosophy guarantees teams who sit in the front and back of the class as well as by the window and the wall will have representatives in the Elite Eight of any sport in a given year. Because of the IHSA's goal to have teams from around the state at the state final tournaments regardless of their abilities, teams receive postseason "finals" of varying difficulty. It happens every season in every team sport - some teams receive numerous road blocks placed in front of them, while other comparable teams receive a relative red-carpet road to state.
The IHSA is upfront about this, stating the following in its written policies:
"The State Series is designed to determine a State Champion. …