Thursday, April 02, 2009

Looking back at the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament

This weekend's ESPN RISE National High School Invitational features an eight-team bracket of private and prep school basketball powers from across the nation -- including a potential matchup between No. 1 Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and No. 2 Findlay (Henderson, Nev.), which would determine the 2008-09 National Prep Poll champion.

But as reader Greg Perry pointed out to me via email this week, the NHSI is neither the first nor certainly not the biggest postseason national high school hoops tourney ever staged.

Perry directed me to this history of the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament posted at the's Hoopedia section.

Legendary University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg organized the NIBT, which started in 1917, took a two-year break during WWI, then picked up steam as a true national championship tournament during the 1920s. 

In 1923, the NIBT featured 40 teams from 24 states. The 1927 field including 43 teams, 33 of which had been crowed state champions that season. 

In all, 11 high schools from eight different states won NIBT championships between 1917-1930

There were no national high school basketball rankings published in the 1920s, so the NIBT's on-court champion got a trophy (see photo of 1927 trophy) and recognition as the top high school team in the land.

By the end of the 1920s, national and regional high school federations were increasingly becoming weary of corrupting influences on prep sports and discouraged its member schools from participating in the event. 

The NIBT met its ultimate demise after the 1930 titlist was crowned. 

Similar concerns about potential corruption are expressed by the National Federation of State High School Associations today and are likely to keep prominent public and private schools that compete for regular state championships out of this newly formed NHSI tournament.

Thanks again to Greg Perry and the NBA's Hoopedia for today's history lesson. 

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