On Monday, the Illinois High School Association Board of directors met via video conference, with one of the items on the agenda being to decide where the State Finals Tournament would be held for the next three seasons in both boys and girls basketball.
“We want the State Final experience to feel like the Super Bowl of every IHSA sport and activity,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “We feel very very lucky that these amazing communities are interested in supporting our high schools, while putting forth the time and resources necessary to make sure the students, coaches, fans and officials enjoy a first-class experience. We are truly appreciative of everyone that submitted a bid to host and look forward to working with all of them moving forward.”
For boys basketball, the board announced that the tournament will return to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana to the State Farm Center, where the event was held from 1919 all the way through 1995.
“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” said Anderson. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion for high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts.
The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021.”
“We are ecstatic to welcome the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament back to its original home at the University of Illinois,” said Jayne DeLuce, President & CEO of Visit Champaign County. “Our community has evolved into a much broader vision incorporating sports, education, technology, and a place of diverse culture that will provide incredible experiences for all involved. We are ready to embrace a new tradition of welcoming teams, families, fans, officials, and media for the experience of a lifetime.”
Along with the new venue, there will also be a change in format. Previously, the State Tournament had been held over two weekends. But starting in 20201, the new format will have all four classes play over three days, with four championship games being played Saturday.
The Peoria Civic Center, which has hosted the event every year since 1996, also submitted a vote to keep hosting. Anderson expressed his gratitude toward Peoria hosting the tournament for the last 25 years.
“It’s difficult to express how grateful we are to the city of Peoria, the Civic Center, the surrounding communities, and the army of volunteers who have so vigorously supported the state tournament for a quarter of a century in Peoria,” said Anderson. “We understand there may be some initial disappointment, but ultimately, we hope they are as proud as we are for overseeing one of the most decorated eras in IHSA basketball with class, grace, and innovation. We love Peoria and look forward to the numerous IHSA events we will continue to conduct there.
“IHSA basketball has deep roots and a celebrated history on the University of Illinois campus and within the Champaign-Urbana community It’s almost indescribable when you think of all the iconic players and coaches who were a part of the state tournament here. Names like Johnny Orr, Quinn Buckner, Jack Sikma, Isiah Thomas, The Three Amigos (Donnie Boyce, Sherell Ford, Michael Finley), Deon Thomas, Dick Corn, Bruce Douglas, Sonny Cox, Gordie Kerkman, Ronnie Fields, Gene Pingatore, Jay Shidler and Flying Illini like Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson and Marcus Liberty. I could probably name 100 more. We look forward to celebrating that history, and making new memories as America’s Original March Madness returns to Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois.”
As for girls basketball, the State Tournament will remain at Redbird Arena at Illinois State University as it has since 1992, for the next three seasons.
“We are excited to continue to serve as the host for the IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships,” said ISU Director of Athletics Larry Lyons said. “Illinois State University and Illinois State Athletics have long valued their great partnership with the IHSA, and we take great pride in hosting this Championship.
“It’s an honor for us welcome the athletes, their families and spectators to campus and the Bloomington/Normal community each year and provide them with a first-class championship experience at Redbird Arena.”