This week is the boys’ and girls’ Delaware County high school basketball tournaments. To some, the yearly event might answer the question of which teams are the best in the area. However, how can it prove that when not every Delaware County team competes?
According to the website for the Delaware County Athletic Hall of Fame, the boys’ tournament started in 1929, and ever since its arrival, Burris and Muncie Central have been left out. So for nearly a century, the Owls and Bearcats have not competed for a county title. Why?
The events are run by the Delaware County Athletics Association, a committee made up of athletic directors and principals from the six competing schools (Daleville, Cowan, Delta, Wapahani, Yorktown, and Wes-Del). Yet after multiple emails to members, I was provided an answer an everyday Joe might give.
It’s because they’re “city schools” and not “county schools.”
What does that even mean? The last time I looked at the map, Muncie was in Delaware County. However, the “city schools” coaches aren’t worried about the rationale; they believe their teams deserve to be in the mix.
“It's unfortunate that the kids who attend school within the Muncie city limits have an opportunity of high-level competition revoked from them based on the technicality that they do go to school within the city limits,” Burris boys’ basketball head coach Blair Broussard said. “I don't think it's right, and I don't think it's fair.”
Broussard is a Burris graduate and took the court for the Owls during that time. The same goes for Muncie Central boys’ basketball head coach Justin Ullom, who attended and played for Delta.
During this time in past seasons, Muncie Central has competed in different tournaments. Yet to Ullom, the atmosphere and attendance numbers are not the same as the county tournament.
“The Delaware County tournament, that Friday night or especially on championship night [on Saturday], that gym is generally pretty full,” he said. “I think it's an environment you want your kids to play in and learn from.”
So while six of the eight Delaware County teams can play in a tournament that could mirror sectionals, the Owls and Bearcats don’t get that opportunity.
Hoosiers are probably most interested in the basketball edition of this event, but what about other sports like golf or volleyball? Nope. The two “city schools'' are still left out.
“We've wondered the past couple of years why we haven't been in it,” Burris junior Lilly Howell said.
During the fall, Burris volleyball arguably had the best season out of any team in the county, maybe even in Indiana. Howell led the Owls with 3.8 kills per set and 67 total blocks. With those numbers, she was one of the best volleyball players in the county.
Yet it wasn’t just her who made the Owls an unstoppable force. Seniors like Aubrey Miller and Layla Gonzales helped the blue and white finish the regular season with a 24-4 record, the best record in the county.
They soared through the state tournament without dropping one set, which helped them become IHSSA 2A State Champions in Ball State’s Worthen Arena.
While they were allowed to win the state championship in their county, they were excluded from proving themselves in their county tournament.
“It kind of hits me as a respect kind of thing, because I feel that Burris gets overlooked a lot, especially as a volleyball school,” Howell said.
However, there is another thing the event is missing. While he’s a supporter, Ullom isn’t just for the Owls and Bearcats taking part in the tournament. He believes the community is missing out when it comes to a great environment.
“I think [the Muncie Central Fieldhouse] is such a great gym and I’m glad it's been restored,” Ullom said. “The school system has spent a ton of money on different things inside it.”
When he told me this over the phone, I couldn’t help but smile. Think about what the Bearcats’ second-year head coach said. When the Eagles and Tigers faced each other at Delta High School Dec. 9, the gym was crammed. It was one of the loudest regular season games I’ve been to in some time.
Now think of that in the historic Fieldhouse with the county title on the line. Even matchups like Wapahani taking on Muncie Central or the Raiders going against the Daleville Broncos. It would be electric.
While some want change, some do like how the tournament has been executed in the past. Wapahani athletic director and boys’ basketball head coach Matt Luce likes how historic the event has become.
“I think it's a very historical group,” Luce said. “It offers our county athletes significant rivalries and also some significant opportunities to play for championships.”
He isn’t wrong. The county tournaments do give opportunities to a lot of area athletes, and Luce did bring up an interesting point of view. Maybe the Owls and Bearcats did not want to participate in the events back in 1929.
When the tournament started, Muncie Central had won their first of eight state championships the year prior. Maybe the Bearcats didn’t want to play the likes of Royerton High School or Gaston High School, two high schools that no longer exist.
Yet to me, that does not matter. I don’t care if someone in 1929 said no, thank you. Let’s get with the program and talk to the people who are in charge in 2024. I bet there would be a different answer.
In conclusion, one thing still sits above it all. It’s not about atrophy or having a chance to take the court against your county rival. It’s the idea that every high school athlete strives for.
A chance to represent their school.
“I think we deserve to get a spot in the county tournament,” Howell said. “We put in the work and we put in the hours to get there.”
So while many Delaware County basketball fans will fill Delta High School and Yorktown High School for the tournament, there will be some that don’t. While some athletes will get a chance to be named the best in the 765, others will just hear about it because they weren’t there.
They were left out because of a decision that was made almost 100 years ago.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at email@example.com or on X@ZachCarter85.