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The Illinois High School Association offers guarantees to schools on how much money they'll get to host playoff and championship events - whether they're tennis matches, where admission is free, or basketball games, where tickets are sold.
Under the formula establishing those guarantees, the IHSA loses money whenever it pays schools to host events that generate little or no ticket income. But the association makes money - sometimes five-figure sums - on the sports that draw big crowds.
For example, the 2013 boys basketball Class 4A sectional, held at Bolingbrook High School, netted $24,706 from ticket sales, according to records obtained from the Bolingbrook school system, Valley View District 365U.
The IHSA guaranteed Bolingbrook $2,300 to host the three-day event and paid referees a total of $706.50. The IHSA kept 80 percent of the net, and the school got the rest, the records show.
So the IHSA ended up with $17,351. Bolingbrook, whose school officials staffed and ran the event, got less than half that - $6,648.
In northwest suburban Township High School District 211, five schools hosted a total of 37 IHSA events in the 2012-13 school year, records show. Thirty one of those events made money, $109,742 in all, according to district records.
Between host guarantees and the schools' share of net income, the schools made $42,535 - 39 percent of the take. The IHSA's share was $67,207, or 61 percent - though a small amount of that was passed on to schools whose teams traveled to District 211 for playoff football games.
IHSA officials say it's fair that the organization gets the bigger share from big events, noting that, unlike in some other states, Illinois schools aren't charged membership dues. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association, for example, collects more than $1 million a year in dues from member schools.
IHSA officials also say that Illinois schools keep all ticket revenue from regular-season games, aren't forced to host IHSA events and can make additional money at playoff games through concession revenue, which the IHSA doesn't touch.
Of the 35 tournaments and contests the IHSA sanctions, 20 - including boys basketball, girls basketball, football and cheerleading - make money, records show. Fifteen - including boys and girls tennis, Scholastic Bowl and chess - don't.
Of the $10.8 million in income the IHSA reported on its annual report for 2012-13, $5.7 million of that came from ticket sales at playoff and championship events.
The organization reports it paid $2.7 million out of that $5.7 million to the hundreds of schools that hosted events and kept $1.9 million, with the rest going to pay referees and other officials.
"I believe our members support the system," says Marty Hickman, the IHSA's executive director. "If not, I know they can change it."
Other events the IHSA made money on included:
- The Naperville Central-Neuqua Valley Class 8A quarterfinal football game hosted by Central last season netted $19,037 in ticket sales. The IHSA's take: $14,207, Central made $4,410. And the IHSA paid referees $420.
- A Class 4A girls volleyball sectional in 2012 at Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox brought in $8,929 in ticket sales. The IHSA kept $6,344. The school got $2,126. And the IHSA paid officials $459.
- A Class 3A boys soccer sectional in 2013 at New Trier High School in Winnetka netted $5,065 in ticket sales. The IHSA kept $3,221. New Trier got $1,245. And the IHSA paid officials $599.