If anybody has any more doubt that the IMG Academy football program of Bradenton, Florida is playing on a different level and with different rules about getting players to go there than just about any “school” in the nation, all the news this week about the University of Michigan practicing there basically to help its recruitment of IMG players should be the final nail in the coffin.
IMG has obviously adopted the philosophy of super private school academy-style basketball programs like Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev., and Montverde Academy (also of Florida). The University of Tennessee has reportedly made offers to 20 IMG players so far who will be on this fall’s team and this summer’s The Opening by Nike in Beaverton, Ore., will be another IMG promotional bonanza with many IMG players getting salivated upon by the recruiting media.
The IMG team does not play in the Florida high school state championships but seeks out teams from around the country in an attempt to get a high national ranking. Last year’s team went 9-0 and was in the top 10 of several polls but did have a couple of close games against two teams from New Jersey – 59-47 vs. Bergen Catholic and 28-20 vs. Paramus Catholic.
Next season’s team, which should be insanely talented, is playing Corona Centennial at the Honor Bowl on Labor Day weekend in Mission Viejo. Maybe the Huskies can give the IMG team a contest, and hopefully they do but based on IMG’s obvious ability to get players literally from anywhere in the nation it may be a tall task. It also will hopefully be the last time a California team plays IMG in football.
Per CIF rules, California boys basketball teams aren’t allowed to play some of these prep schools (Findlay Prep) even though they have some kind of membership in a state association. IMG in football should be viewed the same way.
If players like Brian Hightower of Calabasas and others from California truly believe moving across the country to go to IMG is going to greatly benefit them, we wish them nothing but the best and completely understand. Why any regular public/private school state association allow these super private prep school powerhouses to schedule games against their members is what doesn’t make sense.
We’ll wait to see what happens against Corona Centennial, but the first time an academy-style football team with 20 or 30 Division I recruits and five or six All-Americans (some who came to that school from all over the country) obliterates a California team, then anybody else scheduling that school should have their heads examined.
At least private schools like De La Salle and St. John Bosco don’t often collect players from hundreds of miles away. And we know from recent history (Long Beach Poly, Centennial, etc.) that it’s very possible for a public school to be more than competitive. IMG is taking it to an entirely different level. Pat them on the back perhaps the first time an IMG team runs the table and is No. 1 in the nation. After that, make them go play small colleges.