The Founding of the IHSAA
While several regional athletic associations were formed around the state in the late 1890s, there was no statewide organization that administered athletics. Game rules were not uniform and abuses were common, including undue influence and non-students representing high schools in interscholastic competition. In the spring of 1903 at a teachers convention in Richmond, the seeds of a state high school athletic governing body were sewn. Common concerns were voiced, high school principals in attendance resolved to bring interscholastic competition under their direction, and an executive committee of six principals was formed. That session, long known as the “Richmond Agreement,” led to another meeting on December 5, 1903 with some 50 representatives of Indiana high schools gathering in the office of F.A. Cotton, state superintendent of public instruction, for the purpose of establishing a statewide athletic association. That meeting produced a provisional constitution, which was based on the constitution of the recently formed Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. On December 29, 1903, that constitution was presented to a meeting of high school principals from around the state. In part, that original constitution stated:
“The purpose of this organization is the encouragement and direction of athletics in the high schools of the state. No effort has been made to repress the athletic spirit that is everywhere in evidence in our schools. On the contrary, this organization gives recognition to athletics as an essential factor in the activities of the pupil and seeks only to direct these activities into proper and legitimate channels.”
The first IHSAA Board of Control was elected at the December 29, 1903 meeting. George W. Benton, principal of Indianapolis Shortridge High School, was elected chairman. L.D. Coffman, superintendent at Salem, was elected as treasurer, and J.T. Giles, principal at Marion High School, as secretary.
No record exists detailing which schools joined the IHSAA immediately. But the IHSAA Handbook of 1928 lists 15 schools as charter members. Those schools were: Anderson, Alexandria, Bloomington, Eaton, Fairmount, Goshen, Huntington, Indianapolis Manual Training, Indianapolis Shortridge, Kokomo, Marion, Noblesville, North Manchester, Salem and Wabash. By April 1, 1904, membership had increased to 33 schools. By December 1904, membership reached 71 schools.