The Illinois High School Association is made up of the principals of the state's 766 member high schools. They vote on measures that affect thousands of boys and girls who participate in IHSA-sponsored sports programs and extra-curricular activities.
So logic says that the principals ought to be interested in what the IHSA is doing.
Bu only 39 percent of them bothered to cast a ballot when the IHSA chose to scrap a two-class basketball playoff that had been in place for 35 years and adopt a four-class format.
And when principal Bob Peterson of Putnam Country canvassed other principals following the recent 1A/2A and 3A/4A tournaments, the percentage of responses was even less.
According to Peterson, who is a member of the IHSA's basketball advisory board, only 61 principals from 1A and 2A schools were in favor of staying with the four-class plan while 47 favored a return to the two-class system. Only a handful of 3A/4A principals responded to his survey.
"I just don't think they care," Peterson said.
"I was in favor of the two-class plan. For 35 years, it was great. But the crowds this year in Peoria weren't what they used to be. Will Peoria be in favor of hosting again when the contract comes up for bid the next time? After one or two years, it is hard to tell if something is going to be good. In 1972, people had the same questions. How long will the IHSA look at it?"
Maybe Peterson should have asked the principals if they wanted a raise in pay or a country club membership or a month-long vacation in Hawaii.
They always find enough time to show up in Peoria to pick up a trophy in front of a television camera, don't they?
The happiest principal in Peoria was from Woodlawn, the small community near Mount Vernon that qualified for the state finals for the first time since the school opened in 1920. That's what IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said the new format was designed to do, provide opportunities for small schools that never experienced the joy of participating in the state finals.
Schools such as Woodlawn, with an enrollment of 200 students, Fairfield, Beecher and Richmond-Burton cheered for the new system while traditional powers such as Pinckneyville yearned for the good old days of the two-class tournament.
Critics argue that the four-class plan waters down the tournament and, worse, diminishes the prestige of an event that once was considered a showcase among all high school events in the United States. And they point to a lot of empty seats at Peoria's Carver Arena as proof that it isn't working, just as it doesn't appear to be working in neighboring Indiana.
But Hickman, principal Jim Woodward of Anna-Jonesboro, president of the IHSA's board of directors, and other administrators believe it is more important to provide more opportunities for kids to have a state-tournament experience, that the mission of the IHSA isn't to showcase an all-star basketball event featuring all of the state's top-rated teams and five-star players.
Do you think, Hickman and Woodward wondered, that the people in Woodlawn were any less excited to reach the 1A final than the people from Whitney Young in Chicago when they advanced to the 4A final?
They have a good point. In the end, it's all about the kids. Or it should be. So maybe the principals should get as excited as their students are.