A Q&A with IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox

Below is the full version of the Q&A with Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox, which appeared in The Evening News & Tribune yesterday.


The high school soccer season kicks off next week across Southern Indiana, and with it come more changes both on and off the field.

On it, we will see the elimination of the “soft red” card in an attempt to improve sportsmanship.

In one of three changes being introduced by the National Federation of State High School Associations Soccer Rules Committee, a second yellow card will not only disqualify a player, but the team will not be permitted to substitute for him or her.

Off it, we have seen the introduction of the two-class system by the Indiana High School Athletic Association in 2011.

Then, a few weeks ago, a new two-year tournament success factor was approved for all team sports, including soccer.

It involves an accumulation of points by which a school will move up a class based on tournament-series performance during that time.

Success achieved during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years will be used to determine classifications in 2013-14.

So we thought it would be a good time to put a few questions to IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox about recent changes and how the organization believes they will affect the fifth-most popular sport at the high school level.

Cox commenced in his new role in 2011, having served as assistant commissioner since 2000 administering the sports of football, boys’ golf, boys’ and girls’ track and field, and wrestling.

He is a graduate of Carmel High School and spent 21 years as a teacher, coach and athletic administrator in the Carmel Clay Schools.

Kick It: There has been a bit of a shake-up in numerous high school sports in Indiana coinciding with your appointment as commissioner, including soccer which saw the introduction of two classes in 2011. How do you feel the new structure has fared so far and what kind of feedback have you had on it?

Bobby Cox: The change to two classes in soccer was motivated by the soccer coaches’ association after several years of surveying their membership and a growing level of support during that time to classify the tournament. After year one, I feel the tournament went well. As our membership continues to polarize with regard to enrollment, I feel that two classes will serve soccer well.

KI: You are quoted as saying the introduction of the two-year tournament success factor “will prove to enhance the team-sport experience” across the disciplines that it will affect. How do you see it enhancing the experience in soccer?

BC: As more schools add soccer to their sport offerings, the opportunities that the success factor will provide will extend to soccer.  Obviously that will increase should soccer move to three or more classes in time. … Additional classes in soccer will come when the number of schools that offer the sport increases. Our by-laws provide that when 75 percent of the membership (currently at 408 full-member schools) is participating in the sport, a third class may be created and when 95 percent of the membership participates, a fourth class may be added.

KI: So while there were 292 boys’ teams involved in postseason competition last year (around 72 percent), the girls total of 252 teams (62 percent) would need to increase by around 54 programs for a third class to be considered. So when do you foresee a three-class structure, based on growth projections?

BC: You are correct.  Both genders would need to achieve the 75 percent threshold to consider three classes. Given the current financial climate at our member schools and a growth rate of less than three schools annually, I do not foresee three classes in soccer for quite some time.

KI: So is it fair to say then that the “opportunities” that the success factor will provide to the sport in the immediate years will be minimal while it remains as a two-class sport?

BC: Obviously there will not be as much movement of schools when there is only two classes as opposed to four or six.

KI: Wouldn’t this therefore give credence to the criticism that the success factor might work with sports with three or more classes, but won’t work as well — maybe even be detrimental — for those who might have to make a potentially big “jump up” in soccer? (For example, Providence, winners of the inaugural Class A girls’ state title and therefore already accumulating four points when you take into account 2011-12, could be taking on schools with up to 10 times as many girls in 2013 should they win at least regional this fall and rack up the six-point total.)

BC: I do not see any detriment to a 1A school that has experienced a level of success necessary to move up to 2A soccer, other than it will be more difficult to win and that is exactly what the program is designed to accomplish.

KI: Are you concerned about schools trying to take advantage of the changes to enhance their chances of success in future years (not making any real effort to perform when moved up a class, for example)?

BC: It is rare to see a school participate in an IHSAA tournament series event and not give their best efforts.  My sense is that if Providence High School’s girls’ soccer team moves into 2A girls’ soccer in 2013-14, they will bring everything they have to the tournament.

KI: There are those that believe private/parochial schools should have their own state tournament because they can recruit from the entire local area and are already in an advantageous position as a result. Is this something the IHSAA has looked at?

BC: The public/private/parochial debate has raged on since the initiation of the multiple-class system in team sports. A proposal to divide the IHSAA membership into public and private divisions was introduced into the Board of Directors agenda this year. The proposal failed and rightfully so. … While private and parochial schools have certain advantages, public schools also possess advantages as well. All these varied advantages are now being addressed by implementing a success factor. At the end of the day, some people are only concerned with what schools are winning IHSAA state championships and those people want to feel as if their school has a fair opportunity to be successful. Thus, we are addressing success.

KI: Other than class changes, has the IHSAA discussed future improvements or alterations to soccer as it grows in popularity?

BC: The executive committee has approved the staff to secure a new location for our state championships. We are looking into options and will name a new state finals venue in August.


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