The 1996 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championship Tournaments ended the tenth State Championship Series conducted in Scholastic Bowl by the IHSA. It was the fifth season in which there were separate State Championship Tournaments held for small schools (Class A) and large schools (Class AA).
In each class, the state was divided into 16 areas, termed in Illinois as Sectionals. Each sectional hosted a tournament, the winner of which advanced to the State Championship Tournament. The determination of these geographic boundaries was arbitrarily decided by the IHSA Office. This would be the final season in which there would be sixteen sectionals per class, and sixteen teams advancing to the State Championship Tournament.
Each round was comprised of 30 toss-ups and accompanying bonus questions. The sectional tournaments and State Championship Tournament were all single elimination. Teams were randomly assigned to positions in the bracket without regard for record or performance.
The exception to the single elimination format occurred in the semifinals, where the two semifinal losers played a third place match. The top four teams earned trophies and medals for team members, coaches, principals, and activities directors. The trophies were of the design smaller than that of the athletic trophies given out by the IHSA.
The Class A State Championship Tournament was held at Carlinville High School. This would be the third and final time which Carlinville would host the Class A tournament. Starting in 1997, the Class AA and Class A Tournaments would both move to the Peoria Civic Center.
One Sectional Champion did not attend this tournament. Beardstown was thus given a bye to the quarterfinals.
The Class AA State Championship Tournament was held at Woodruff High School in Peoria. The school had previously hosted the tournament in 1994, and this would be the last time the school would host the tournament. The Class A and Class AA tournaments would move to the Peoria Civic Center for the 2007 Tournaments.
- The Latin School's quarterfinal loss was the last match in Rob Grierson's coaching career. Grierson would go on to add to his already significant list of accomplishments in Scholastic Bowl. He would soon become a State Official, rising to become Head of Officials at the State Championship Tournament.
- Illinois' two Jesuit high schools Loyola Academy & St. Ignatius both made their first and appearances in the State Championship Tournament. It would take until 2008 before either team (Loyola) made it back.
- Wheaton Academy in West Chicago was the first Class A school located in suburban Chicago to advance to the State Championship Tournament, and it would be the last until Lisle advanced in 2010 and 2011. Because of the way the sectional geographic boundaries are drawn, suburban Chicago is almost always entirely in the same sectional as The Latin School.