Are rumors to be believed?
If so, then the SAC Holiday Tournament could finally, mercifully, be dead.
I didn’t stutter, I did say mercifully.
As a new school year starts up and we look forward to high school sports again for the 2021-22 season, inevitably the once-premier in-season tournament in northeast Indiana has become a topic of conversation on social media.
The Summit Athletic Conference’s Holiday Tournament, held most recently at Wayne High School, did not happen in 2020. It was claimed as a COVID related casualty and even then, we had to question if that was true.
At this point, just four months and some change away from when the 2021 edition is supposed to take place, questions and rumors have arisen that the event may not take place this season, and perhaps never again.
And I said good riddance.
Once upon a time, the SAC Holiday Tournament was the crown jewel of the basketball season. I have never been shy about saying that I used to love it. The pageantry, the crowds, the excitement, even the yearly fistfight in the stands…it was all its own shade of magical.
Starting in 1975 for the boys and 1977 for the girls, the tournament did truly evolve into being as equally important to winning the conference’s regular season crown outright. Each of the first two boys title games were decided by a single point, with Wayne beating Northrop that first season and North Side edging Elmhurst in overtime the very next year. As the tournament traveled from the Memorial Coliseum to IPFW, Saint Francis, Northrop, Wayne and back to most of those venues again until it hit its possible final resting place of Wayne again in 2007, even the seasons that weren’t finished off with a classic (i.e. 2015’s girls title game where Homestead beat South Side by 60 points), there was still a lot to celebrate (i.e. the fact that the Homestead girls were THAT good and THAT fun to watch).
We’ve seen some amazing games, fantastic players and performances like in 2014 when both the boys and girls scoring records were set in the same year in two of the most clean, dazzling scoring efforts by North Side’s Sean McGee and Snider’s Deja Wimby or 2018 when Kathryn Knapke led Bishop Luers’ monumental and, to that point, unimaginable upset win over Homestead.
See, even typing that all out gives me goosebumps when reflecting on the past.
But the past is the past for a reason. In recent years, the experience has turned bland. I’m not going to pin that on anyone in particular. Wayne athletic director Gary Raber and his crew have done well and worked hard with the tournament in their hands. The players have showed up and showed out. But somewhere along the line of domination from both the Homestead girls and the North Side boys, things just started to trickle backwards.
Its like my pal Blitz says about the SAC’s regular season football schedule: it is old and it is tired.
I don’t want to watch the same old games anymore. I don’t need to see Snider and Homestead play for what could easily be one of THREE games against each other that season. And I am not the only one; while Bounce doesn’t have any actual attendance numbers at his fingers, I have seen it with my own two eyes, nobody is showing up to the SAC Holiday Tournament like they used to. I remember those days of showing up an hour before the doors opened and freezing your butt off to get a good seat in a gym where the nosebleeds were packed like sardines. The last tournament in 2019, you could have shown up 10 minutes into the title game and sat damn near courtside.
The event just doesn’t matter anymore and no change in formula is likely to work when it stays with the format of having the same 10 teams over and over again.
In the last several years, there has been more intrigue over at the Columbia City and/or Huntington North tournament held around the same time just because they brought in a variety of different teams playing at different locales. Even last season’s one-day shootout at Carroll carried that interest playing in the school’s three different gyms with the likes of Warren Central and South Bend Adams taking on a few local teams. It took away the staleness that the SAC Holiday Tournament had left in our mouths like it was old popcorn off the movie theatre floor.
So that is what I want.
As much as I loved the SAC Holiday Tournament at its zenith, we live in a world of what works now. And that tournament doesn’t work anymore.
So I am leading the charge, maybe popular, maybe not….to allow it to fade away. Any further push for this tournament, unless there is a huge outpouring of support from people who will actually pack that gym and not just complain on social media, will just tarnish the legacy that so many players worked hard to build from 1975 to 2019.
As of right now, the SAC Holiday Tournament is just dormant. But should it be a permanent absence?
Bounce says, with sadness, yes.
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