Heard of IMG Academy? I’m going to assume the answer is yes because if you follow college football then you can’t help but follow college football recruiting to a degree, and if you follow college football recruiting to a degree then you’ve at least heard mention of IMG Academy, the boarding school for big-time prospects in Bradenton, Florida.
And that’s sort of amazing, because IMG has only fielded a football program for four years now. It’s been a rapid rise from nowhere to the top of prep football and John Crist of Saturday Down South fills in that story with a look inside what he calls “ground zero” for football recruiting.
There are many jaw-dropping details in that story. Like the 6-foot-9, 400-pound Australian who came to Bradenton to learn to play football and, though he hasn’t played a game yet, is already one of the top recruits in the country. Or the cost for this unmatched level of football focus and resources.
But the most interesting idea here, might be included in this passage from Crist’s story:
Since almost every IMG student, be it a football player or another sport-specific athlete, lives on campus, they’re used to being away from home. Going off to college isn’t as much of a culture shock.
They learn time management. Their diets are better. They already know their way around a film room. It’s all football, all the time. Additionally, the academic curriculum is designed for players to graduate a semester ahead of schedule. Of the 21 IMG recruits who signed NLIs in February, 20 were early enrollees.
Today’s college freshmen are getting more playing time than ever before, and IMG’s high school seniors arrive readier than most.
Frame that last sentence. Put it on the brochures, because that’s the key idea here, I think. IMG is the densest collection of 4- and 5-star talent in the country, which is convenient, but IMG doesn’t have all of the blue-chip players. But if the 4-star you get from IMG is “more ready” to transition to the college game than the 4-star from Small Town, U.S.A., well that’s value added.
That’s something you can charge a premium for and it seems to be working. It’s not about amassing blue chips, necessarily, but turning out better blue chips, and we’re still in the early stages of this. It will be interesting to look at IMG’s impact after it’s been turning out players for a decade.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska baseball’s trip to Corvallis, Oregon, landed with a thud, but Kevin Sjuts of 1011 News did land an interview with the Husker fan who owns Mike Riley’s childhood home.
- Matt Brown of Sports on Earth parses the latest College Football Hall of Fame ballot to determine the top 15 candidates and two Huskers make his list.
- Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star looks at another rough year for Nebraska’s major men’s sports.
- Dan Murphy of ESPN looks at some of the high-stakes nonconference games in the Big Ten in 2017.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.