Now that IMG Academy has two football teams, will that create more transfers there … and back?

When athletes announce they are transferring to IMG Academy for football, I understand a lot of the reasons why. It’s an upscale private school that caters to elite athletes, and the facilities are tremendous, the instruction is first-rate and it’s a gold mine for college recruiters. (Denton Guyer’s Noah Cain is one of latest Dallas-area […]

When athletes announce they are transferring to IMG Academy for football, I understand a lot of the reasons why. It’s an upscale private school that caters to elite athletes, and the facilities are tremendous, the instruction is first-rate and it’s a gold mine for college recruiters. (Denton Guyer’s Noah Cain is one of latest Dallas-area stars to transfer there.)

Still, it’s no surprise that some players, after transferring to IMG, have a change of heart and go back to their former schools. Sometimes they’re homesick or miss the friends and routine of their traditional high school. There are other reasons, of course, but not a lot of players have said much about it publicly. (Some players who transferred to IMG and then back to their home schools include Allen offensive lineman E.J. Ndoma-Ogar, a top Class of 2019 recruit, and Yoakum receiver Joshua Moore, a top 2018 recruit.)

That leads us to the recent news that IMG Academy is going to have two football teams. According to the USA Today story, one of the IMG teams will play the typically tough schedule against top-ranked teams from across the nation.  The other team will play a schedule against 10 Florida 4A and 3A opponents.

Interesting, right?

It gives more players the opportunity to play, but if you’re on the “B” team, you probably give a lot more thought to transferring back to the high school in your hometown. Kids do get a lot at IMG — at a substantial financial cost for some, depending on financial aid offered — but the kids also have to give up a lot. They leave their friends, their hometowns and sacrifice many of the typical high school experiences.

Of course, IMG is going to offer some experiences none of them can get at high school. But the breaking-into-two-teams plan feels like a college program oversigning — signing more kids than scholarships are available. Again from the USA Today article, here’s what IMG coach Kevin Wright says about the two-team plan:

“This really opens up a lot of opportunity,” Wright said. “It allows us the flexibility for a kid to move up (to the national-level team). Probably the greatest element is the ability for all 120 kids to get that Friday night lights experience.”

More opportunity, sure. But those 120 kids are not getting the Friday night lights experience. Just playing in a football game isn’t the Friday night lights experience. The top-level team will get some national broadcasts, but the “B” team — without any real contingent of its own fans or supportive community, or student body, band, drill team, etc. — will not be getting a Friday night lights experience. It will just be playing a variety of Florida schools in games that will be little more than exhibitions with nothing more at stake than individual development in the quest for a college scholarship.

I won’t minimize that quest for the scholarship, because it’s important. But for the most part, the players who are heading to IMG are not in danger of being overlooked. Most of these guys are high on recruiting lists and have been on the recruiting radar for years.

Another IMG Academy team creates more slots for players, and so we’ll probably hear of more transfers. But I expect we’ll hear of more players transferring back to their former schools. IMG offers a lot of things, but from an athletic standpoint, it’s more like a club sport than a high school team.

For some athletes, it might be a perfect fit. For others, it could make the grass back home look very green.

Twitter: @mattwixon

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