The New York Times posted an article by Jere Longman covering IMG Academy, a for-profit school in Brandenton, Florida that’s designed to develop high school football talent from all over the country.
For those not in the know, IMG stands for International Management Group; a global sports management conglomerate who “also specialize(s) in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions.” They’re best known for both developing (via their IMG Tennis Academy) and managing the careers of super-star Tennis players such as Maria Sherapova, Novak Djokavic, Venus and Serena Williams among others. Kobe Bryant is also an alumnus of IMG Basketball Academy.
Now, IMG are sinking their teeth into prep football, recruiting top players from all over the country (sans Florida due to their agreement with the Florida High School Athletic Association) and creating a super-team of prep school all-stars. Their current team has 6 seniors ranked in the top 100 in the country.
One of those players happens to be Ole Miss commit Shea Patterson, the number one rated quarterback in the country. Some of you may remember that Patterson played his Freshman year at Hidalgo Early College High School, before transferring to Calvary Baptist Academy in Louisiana for his Sophomore and Junior years, winning back to back state championships.
IMG Academy is only 3 years into high school football and their already beating national super-powers tallying up wins against DeSoto High School (Texas) and Cocoa High School (Florida). This week, they’ll fly to New Jersey to play Bergan Catholic.
IMG Academy’s purpose, really, is to provide a environment for student-athletes who want to prepare themselves for, potentially, playing football at the collegiate level and beyond. IMG staffs itself with a plethora of training resources from speed to cognitive recognition; specialized coaching to, potentially, maximize their student-athletes’ potential. Tuition to attend reaches over $70,000 per year, with financial aid available for students from low-income families.
Seeing that Tennis, Soccer, Golf, even Basketball already have academies similar to this one, somehow, the sports world can feel the encroachment IMG Academy has made on community sports. The larger picture is this: If in 10 years, this academy begins to produce results, the assumption is that similar academies will open up all over the country and wreak havoc on conventional high school competition. Should a team of prep all-stars be allowed to compete against community teams for state championships?
We don’t have the answer to that question, and neither, evidently, did the New York Times.