Our Stories

A History of the IHSA State Basketball Tournament in Champaign-Urbana

March 12, 2021

This week, we would have been welcoming players, fans, and families to Champaign-Urbana for the return the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament. After 25 years in Peoria, the Boys' tournament was set to return to the place where March Madness began: the State Farm Center. Back then, the site for this incredible three-day display of talent was called Assembly Hall, and the history behind the early days of the tournament is enough to get us even more excited for the 2022 event. 

the impact of the ihsa basketball tournament in champaign-urbana

Champaign-Urbana is the original home of the IHSA Basketball Tournament. Below are a few interesting excerpts from Fred Kroner's book, "A Saucer Coming to Rest: A Half-Century of the Assembly Hall."

Chapter 10 - IHSA Boys' Basketball: "The Illinois High School Association state boys' basketball tournaments were an Assembly Hall staple for 33 years. There were unbeaten teams that achieved their crowning moment of glory at the Hall, as well as future Olympians, future professional players, and Hall-of-Fame coaches who spent at least one weekend of their lives in the arena."

"There were underdogs who won and favored teams who lost. There were games in the old one-class system before the two-class format was introduced. There were games before the three-point shot was a reality. The games were memorable because the teenagers playing in them had reached the pinnacle of success at the high school level: a berth at state in the UI Assembly Hall."

"One of the biggest Cinderella stories was written in 1964, the second year the Assembly Hall served as the IHSA tournament host. Tiny Cobden, with its 147 students, advanced all the way to the championship game, where it lost 50-45 to Pekin, a school with 2,726 students."

"In the spring of 2012, former Cobden coach Dick Ruggles, then 75, remained proud of the precious memories from an era when the state crowned one -- and only one -- state champion per sport. "I'm still hearing about what we did," Ruggles says."

For more on the history of Assembly Hall, check out Fred Kroner's book. When it comes to the chronology of IHSA basketball from its humble beginnings, you can review records and history of the tournament here via the IHSA.

A rich history and a bright future

While we're sad to miss out on hosting this year due to COVID-19 precautions, we look forward to welcoming the tournament back to Champaign-Urbana after a 25-year absence. Before the move to Peoria, the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament enjoyed nearly 80 years of Outside of Ordinary moments in our community. 

Thanks to a great introspective by The News-Gazette, as well as records from the IHSA, we can look back on decades of history made in Champaign-Urbana by teams that included future NBA players, high school coaching legends, and names that still hold weight in school hallways all those years later. 

As rich as the history is, the future is even more thrilling.“We are ecstatic to welcome the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament back to its original home at the University of Illinois,” exclaims Jayne DeLuce, President & CEO of Visit Champaign County. “Our community has evolved into a much broader vision incorporating sports, education, technology, and a place of diverse culture that will provide incredible experiences for all involved. We are ready to embrace a new tradition of welcoming teams, families, fans, officials, and media for the experience of a lifetime.”

Legends Play Here in Champaign County, and we can't wait to welcome you next year for the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament in 2022.

We use cookies to ensure that you get the best experience on our website, although the cookies we use do not contain personally identifiable information. By continuing on this website or by clicking “ I Accept Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device. You can learn more about our privacy policy, how we use cookies, or how to disable cookies by clicking on the " Learn More " link at the end of this statement. Learn More.

I Accept Cookies