First, it was a charter school set up by Deion Sanders. Now, IMG, the worldwide talent agency, is getting in on the high school football act.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, among other sources, IMG Academy will host a varsity high school football team for the first time in 2013. To get the program on a track toward future success, the sports-focused school will begin hosting interested football players during the 2012-13 school year. The football team will be coached by former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Chris Weinke and will be hosted at the same site as the rest of IMG's programs in Brandenton, Fla.
While the IMG program may be destined for future success, that won't come without serious questions about whether or not the agency should be hosting a football team in the first place. IMG -- which features prep sports enterprises like a tennis academy hosted by famed-instructor Nick Bolliteri and a golf school led by David Leadbetter — has more recently begun breaking into full-fledged team sports where the involvement of a third-party entity like IMG are much less traditional.
While IMG launched its soccer academy years ago, its forays into the baseball, basketball and lacrosse world are much more recent. Naturally, all of those efforts will pale in comparison to what it will take to launch a successful football program, particularly in Florida, one of the nation's most talent-rich, competitive states.
There are also sure to be ethical questions to follow on IMG's new school, as well. Many have long questioned the wisdom in integrating pro or collegiate-style training into a traditional school day as a means of more adequately preparing young Americans for future athletic success at the expense of a more traditional scholastic experience.
While the resistance to more professional-style training was less significant with more individualistic or European-powered sports like tennis, golf and soccer, that may not be the case with football, which plays upon its deep roots with all things American and traditional.
Regardless of what happens next, IMG is clearly making waves by adding football in Florida at all. Whether or not those waves are positive may not be known for years in the future. If they are seen as a step forward, don't expect IMG to be the only academy running a pro-style prep football program for long.
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