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March 4, 1988     The Message
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12 Sports The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana March 4, 1988 Rutter on Sports By DAVE RUTrER A few thoughts from the IHSAA "s f ron t lines Ask almost anyone involved in Indiana's high school sports about the IHSAA, and you will not be short of responses. Most of the knowledgable respondents, however, are named "anonymous." At least the ones who intend to speak freely. How the Indiana High School Athletic Association views itself is a matter of record. Founded in 1903 to bring order to the state's chaotic high school sports scene, e IHSAA views itself as a voluntary association of member high schools. Ever since those days, the record also notes how well the association has functioned. In two words, pretty well. But the record is not a monotone. There have been valleys in the association's performance, most notably the recent sneak attack on the Evansville- Term Haute semi-state basketball tournament. That fiasco and the reaction to it speak pro- foundly to the weakness in the IHSAA's approach to ruling Indiar/a sports. And make no mistake. The proper word is "rule." Those who have dealt most intimately for any length of time with the IHSAA -- and are associated with a school -- are reticent to speak openly about the organization. That in itself is a telling reality. Although the IHSAA is ostensibly a republic, representing each area of the state on an executive committee which votes on major matters, the real power apparently resides with Commissioner Gene Cato. How does the IHSAA work? To find out, we t.alked to an area high school official who has 30 years experience on the front line. {Although I don't like anonymous sources, there are some circumstahces when protection is necessary}. Q: The IHSAA calls itself a voluntary associa- tion but sometimes it acts more like a government regulatory agency. Which is it? A: "Both. We've made several cases before the executive committee, but they generally rubber stamp what Cato has already decided. If you read their quarterly reports, the committee in almost all cases upholds what the commissioner says. Cato has a great deal of power." Q: What's the source of Cato's power? A: "I've often wondered that myself. He ac- tually serves at the pleasure of the executive com- mittee. I don't know why they can't just dismiss him, other than the fact they haven't seen fit to do SO." Q: From your perspective, what are the political dynamics of the board and the commissioner? A: "I think that at least 90 percent of people don't know how they operate. The first thing the IHSAA tells you is that they're a volunteer organization of principals who choose the commis- sioner. That all sounds good, but I don't think it works that way. I'm not even sure who decides if they know what they're talking about and who decides if they're interpreting things properly." Q: So much of what the IHSAA does seems to be decided in private. Isn't that a problem? A: "Definitely. And I don't know if the IHSAA has ever been challenged on how it operates. But I tend to agree that the way they operate and the power they have make them more like a government agency than a group of volunteers. In that sense, the income tax law is voluntary, too. You don't have to belong to the IHSAA, they say, hut of course you couldn't play anyone." Q: Give me an example of how the IHSAA flexes its organizational power. A: "As an example, all schools who advance very far in the football playoffs are told they must send a representative to Indianapolis the week before the game. You've got to be there. It's a total waste of time. You spend 6-7 hours on the road and have a 20-minute meeting. The information could have been given to you in a letter. But the object is to make you go up there. You've been called and must go. It's just ineptitude and a waste of money and time." Q: Based on reports from the meeting at which the semi-state issue was postponed for two years, there seemed to be some indication that Cato was not pleased with the publicity. A: "Not surprised. Cato loves publicity when it's positive about him, but I know he doesn't like it if it's negative. He like to be the good el' coun- try boy although I don't really think that's the way he is. Among previous commissloners, Ward Brown turned out to be embarrassing and some of the others were.., well not very smart. I've often wondered how someone decided they would make good commissioners." Q: Aside from the personalities, does the IHSAA work well? A: "Generally it's been a good organization and we couldn't have done without it. But most of the things they do are routine. A lot of the time, the problem is just dealing with the bureaucracy. They have a nice building in Indianapolis and they (the five commissioners) all drive nice cars." Q: Is the IHSAA intimidating? A: "I've had some experience. You stand'up and speak your mind on an issue, and then they g.. ahead and do what they want anyway. After a while, you say to yourself, what the heck, let 'era go ahead. As far as power, there's nothing they can really do if you run your program right. But it's just the feeling of Big Brother looking over your shoulder. I've always wondered about their method of rating officials. They let us rate officials and then we get the very ones we've rated poorly. I've never figured out how they do that. Take the girls' state finals last weekend. Two of the officials were from southern Indiana and they were two of our worst officials. There were lots of guys better. How did they get picked? One year I refused to send in my ratings for officials because I knew they'd be ignored. So they called from In: .'- dianapolis, and we almost got into a shouting match." Q: How does one gain power in the IHSAA and are there good people at work there? A: "On the executive committee, Don Noblitt of Jasper is one of the finest guys you'll ever meet and Joe LaGrange of Perry Central is excellent, but he's new on the committee. There's a lot of guys up there who've been there a long time. Arid they have a definite northern Indiana and central In- diana outlook. It's a lot like the state athletic direc- S, tor's association. There's a small group that runs things and they aren't really interested in new blood." Q: Last thoughts? A: "Well, they take in a lot of money and I think we just have to take on faith that they're spending it wisely. They always say they don't have enough money because they have to pay for that building in Indianapolis. But that's sort of like the parking lot at Roberts Staduim. Supposedly, we're still paying for that, too." Marian scholar will offer programs Father Bernard Luedtke, Marian scholar, will give a series of missions, talks and days of recollection throughout the Diocese of Evansville, March 7-17. Father Luedtke, a member of the order of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, has been a speaker at The Church Teaches Forum in Louisville, Ky. He and Mother Teresa of Calcutta are scheduled to speak at this year's Forum, which will be held June 18 at the Com- monwealth Convention Center in Louisville. The following is his schedule during his visit to churches in the Diocese of Evansville: March 7-10 St. Peter, Montgomery -- Mission and Mass at 8:15 a.m. every day -- Rosary and Stations of the Cross, Monday at 3 p.m. -- Talk and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Tuesday at 3 p.m. -- Talk and the Anointing of the Sick, Wednesday at 3 p.m. -- Talks at 7:30 p.m. on Mon- day, Tuesday and Wednesday March 11-13 St. Matthew, Mt. Vernon -- Mass and an 8 p.m. talk for women on Friday -- Talk for the elderly at 2 p.m. on Saturday -- Talk for men at 2 p.m. on Sunday '-- Masses at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday. March 14 Holy Rosary, Evansville -- Mass at 12:10 p.m. and 7 p.m. -- Talk at 8 p.m. March 15 St. Philip, Posey County -- Rosary and talk on the Marian Year at 4 p.m. -- Meal at 6 p.m. -- Mass at 7:30 p.m. March 16 Resurrection, Evansville -- Mass at 7 p.m. Warm, safe, Funeral Homes "H00erecustomerssend00eir[riendsl" caring, smiling and 00Opennightlytilgp.m. well tra,ned. Uel00lher & Son 0000BANK