INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana high school boys basketball final four has sold out for 62 straight years, but never has it been as big as this.
A crowd of 41,046 -- including a national media contingent of 431 -- arrived at the Hoosier Dome Saturday to watch the 80th state championship, setting a world record attendance figure for any high school event.
'A lot of the guys I work with live in Illinois and they can't believe we back these teams like this,' said Michael Taylor of Owensville, who drove more than three hours to watch Concord, Bedford, Anderson and Southport battle for the championship.
'We're enjoying it,' said Taylor, whose wife Percilla works at Gibson Southern High School, which was eliminated in the first round of the tournament. 'There is some type of magnetism about high school basketball here in Indiana.'
Indiana's crowd beats the previous record of 20,764 for the Kentucky boys basketball finals in 1981. For the previous 15 years, Indiana held its final four at Market Square Arena, drawing 17,490 each year.
'Our concern was if we could have a sellout in the Hoosier Dome,' said Gene Cato, the commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association. 'When a product is scarce, there's a greater demand. We kind of liked that. We though that kept up interest.'
Bob Williams, the IHSAA information director, said he had few troubles meeting media requests.
'We only had two problems because two guys couldn't find their seats,' said Williams. 'I can't believe it. I don't know if the World Series or Super Bowls have such good luck. We expected a lot more problems.'
Fifty-eight radio stations carried the games live, as did a statewide television network that included eight stations. Also, credentials were handed out to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ESPN and the British Broadcasting Corp.
Bedford's lineup includes Damon Bailey, who has been featured in Sports Illustrated and the best-selling 'Season On the Brink,' and recently broke the Indiana scoring record.
'It's the excitement of the game and Bailey being in his last game,' said Percilla Taylor. 'He's great, smart and he's a team player and leader. Young kids should look up to Damon Bailey.'
'It's a great facility. I love it and the kids love it,' said Jim Hahn, coach of Concord, which came into the finals unbeaten. 'It's easier for our kids to communicate here,' he said.
IHSAA officials are letting the fans have a say in whether the finals return to the Hoosier Dome next year or go back to MSA. The championship program includes a tear-out ballot where fans can choose their preferred venue.
'As long as you get in here, that seems to be what matters,' said Williams. 'Indiana fans, for a long time, haven't been able to get tickets and now thay can. That's the big thing.'
The IHSAA executive committee will decide in June if the finals return to the dome.