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And furthermore, the construction of colossal gymnasiums (several of which that were capable of holding well more than the town’s population) came to symbolize the game’s grip on the state. The rationale was simple: The school with the largest gymnasium hosted the sectional tournament.

“During a 1929 meeting in which a motion to put an extra $300 to hire a librarian was voted down, the Muncie City Council decided to reward the 1928 state champs by spending a hundred thousand dollars to build the biggest gym in America,” wrote Phillip Hoose in his 1995 book, Hoosiers: The Fabulous Basketball Life of Indiana.

An arms race commenced among neighboring towns. Anything you can build, we can build bigger.

Years later, the tangible impact remains in the structures that for decades served as the state’s nightclubs. At one point, 15 of the world’s 16 largest gymnasiums rested within Indiana’s borders.

As the game’s popularity boomed, winning came at all costs.

“The notion of amateurism in Indiana high school basketball was a cynical joke,” Hoose wrote. “Merchants rewarded winning coaches with bonuses - once a Pontiac sedan - and players with gold watches. Coaches went after the parents of any tall boy who could shoot a lick, promising the father a better job in their town.”

A scroll through the early minutes of the IHSAA proves as much. New Castle once tried to enlist a player on its roster named Raymond Jolly, but was punished after it was discovered Jolly was a 21-year-old student of Indiana University. A 1920 game between Connersville and Falmouth was ruled no contest after the IHSAA learned fans handed money to the Falmouth players after their victory.

But the scandals did little to stain the sport. Basketball wasn’t going anywhere. Not in Indiana.

In 1925, the inventor himself ventured to the Hoosier state and took in the state finals as Trester’s guest. On a night when thousands were turned away at the door for lack of space, Naismith looked around at the packed gymnasium and marveled at all his wintertime diversion had become.

“The possibilities of basketball as seen here,” he would later write, “were a revelation to me. Basketball may have been invented in Massachusetts, but it was made for Indiana.”


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,