Columbus East has been among the state’s football powers for several years now.
In 2019, the Olympians might get a chance to see how they stack up against the state’s biggest and best.
Win a regional football title — as they have done six of the past seven years — next season, and East will move up to Class 6A — the state’s largest class — for at least the following two years.
But coach Bob Gaddis, who led the Olympians to this year’s Class 5A state title, isn’t looking that far ahead.
“We haven’t even thought about that,” Gaddis said. “We’re still enjoying this one, and then we’ll worry about next year. We have a lot of work to do before that.”
East is a 4A-size school in terms of enrollment. But beginning with the 2013-14 school year, the IHSAA instituted a tournament success factor. Schools accumulating enough points by winning sectional, regional, semistate and state titles in a two-year classification cycle move up to the next class.
Since the Olympians won the Class 4A state title in 2013 and a regional the next year, they had just enough points to move up to 5A in 2015 and 2016. By winning a semistate last year, the Olympians had just enough points to remain at the 5A level.
While football always has been classed by the IHSAA, class basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball did not begin until the 1997-98 school year. IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said the idea at the time was to level the playing field.
After 15 years, some of the IHSAA membership were dismayed that certain schools in the lower classes were winning all of the state championships in those team sports. Thus, the success factor was implemented.
“The whole idea of classifying schools was predicated on the fact that larger schools were winning all the championships,” Cox said. “What we were getting was a preponderance of the same schools winning the same championships every year. If our goal was to level the playing field, we had to take schools who had a high levels of success in the classes lower than the largest and move them up.”
Cox said schools brought several proposals before the board before the success factor was approved. One proposal dealt with multipliers for private and parochial schools. Another was a reverse multiplier for students on free and reduced lunches.
Cox said he thinks the success factor is working because there have been closer games at the deeper levels of the tournament and more first-time attendees at the state championship than before the success factor began.
“Fans other than the fans at the school that’s winning all the time aren’t interested in seeing the same teams year after year,” Cox said. “When you have teams make it to state for the first time, you see a great fan base. It’s allowing our schools to experience an opportunity that they may not have been able to experience.”
The success factor now is in its third two-year cycle. After the first cycle, six public and 13 private schools in the classed sports moved up a class.
Over the past two cycles, 13 public and 13 private schools moved up and six public and seven private schools moved down. In the past two years, 10 public and 10 private schools have moved up, and eight public and seven private have moved down.
If schools that move up a class don’t remain at a certain level through tournament championships, they can move back down for the following two-year cycle.
“The thing I like about the success factor is, it’s not permanent,” Cox said. “I’ve been pleased with it. I like the energy it creates. I like the suspense it creates. I think Columbus East is a very strong 6A competitor.”
Cox envisioned a Class 6A football sectional in 2019 and 2020 that would include East, Columbus North, Center Grove and Jeffersonville.
Meanwhile, Gaddis is more concerned with replacing the 27 seniors he is losing from this year’s team.
“Our main focus is next season, to see how successful we can be,” Gaddis said. “The other thing I’ve told our players is not to worry about something we can’t control. But if we were in that situation, it would be a good problem to have.”
A look at the IHSAA tournament success factor formula for football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer:
Sectional title: 1 point
Regional title: 2 points
Semistate title: 3 points
State title: 4 points
If a team accumulates at least six points in a sport in a two-year classification cycle, it moves up a class for the next two-year cycle.
If a team that has moved up accumulates at least three points in a subsequent two-year classification cycle, it would remain at the same level. If they have two points or fewer, they can move back down to their normal enrollment level.