The IHSA state boys’ basketball tournament is moving back to Champaign.
The IHSA Board of Directors voted on the move to State Farm Center on Monday, moving it back to the CU after a quarter century around the state, most recently at Bradley University’s Peoria Civic Center.
BREAKING: The IHSA basketball state finals are returning to Champaign. https://t.co/Nn1WtPkT37— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) June 15, 2020
If you have want to learn more about what the tournaments used to be like in Champaign and at Assembly Hall, The News-Gazette did a great deep dive into that this week. Big thing to take away from it is that the last state tournament game played in Champaign came on March 18, 1995 — well before any current high schooler (some who were born in 2006) was even alive.
The @IHSA_IL Boys Basketball Tournament is COMING HOME to Champaign!— State Farm Center (@StateFarmCenter) June 15, 2020
See some historical photos below from the 77 years the tournament spent on campus before moving to Peoria in 1995.
What are your favorite memories of IHSA Basketball at State Farm Center?#LegendsPlayHere pic.twitter.com/j9sDVDtEJb
The board also voted to keep the girls’ state basketball tournament to Redbird Arena at Illinois State.
“We are thrilled with today’s news that the Illinois high school boys basketball state finals will return home to the campus of the University of Illinois,” said Athletic Director Josh Whitman in a statement. “We look forward to showcasing the state’s flagship university, celebrating the many virtues of Champaign-Urbana, and maximizing the full spectrum of amenities in State Farm Center to visitors from all across Illinois. The relationship between the IHSA and the University of Illinois extends back more than 100 years, and we are excited to continue this longstanding, positive partnership many years into the future.”
Moving the boys’ tourney to Champaign doesn’t affect the Illini in any significant way, except it likely makes it hard to host NIT games (which Illinois doesn’t have aspirations to participate in again anytime soon). But it will be a big moneymaker for the area for a few weekends each March as thousands will flock to the area. It can also be a big sell for Brad Underwood and staff as they try to capture more top talent from around the state, now with teams like Whitney Young and Simeon coming down south every year.
“Whenever I discuss Fighting Illini Basketball, I always mention the proud history of this program,” said head coach Brad Underwood in a statement. “Much of that success comes from the rich tradition of high school basketball in this state. Some of the greatest players ever to wear the orange and blue first competed on our campus as part of the IHSA state tournament. There is nothing like the thrill of competing for a state championship and the impact it has on high school teams and in their communities, and I’m excited that will once again happen here in Champaign.”