Democracy may not be the most perfect form of government. But it's better than the alternative.
So is the Illinois High School Association.
In the last five decades, I've had issues with the IHSA. I've criticized some of its decisions. But most of the time I have been supportive as the IHSA launched an extensive girls sports program, adopted a two-class basketball format and kicked off a state football playoff.
Don't forget that the IHSA in 1952 was the first state to provide live television coverage of its basketball tournament. And Illinois was the first state to provide live television coverage of its football playoff.
Next fall, the IHSA will become the fourth state to initiate a random drug testing program for athletes.
Sure, the IHSA has had to negotiate many potholes and lawsuits along the way. A bureaucracy that includes more than 700 high schools in one of the nation's most populous states can't avoid controversey like Vermont or Nevada or North Dakota.
The IHSA's treasury was drained when it lost a lawsuit against the NCAA over the rights to the "March Madness" logo. The IHSA had used the term exclusively for years before the NCAA and CBS stole it to fit their advertising and promotional needs. But the courts ruled in favor of Black Rock.
Now the IHSA is taking more hits from media and other critics who oppose the organization's new four-class basketball plan and its controversial decision to prohibit the resale of photographs taken at state series finals by newspaper photographers.
Well, the media and other critics lambasted the IHSA's decision--with a not-too-gentle nudge from Chuck Rolinski and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association--to introduce a two-class playoff in 1972.
But it was an overwhelming success. Small schools achieved an identity that had been lost. College coaches realized that Class A players were good enough to compete in the Big Ten, even the NBA. Lawrenceville's Jay Shidler gave the tournament a much-needed boost of enthusiasm and attendance.
Folks in Chicago are spoiled. They ought to attend a game at Quincy or Pinckneyville or Lewistown or Warrensburg-Latham or Okawville or Madison or Nashville or West Frankfort or Pleasant Plains and discover how Downstate communities spend their Friday nights.
I would suggest that all of the critics who think the IHSA isn't providing for their needs and isn't adequately promoting sports should visit other states to see how their programs are run. Illinois may not be a perfect system--but it's better than the alternative.