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Volume 24 No. 216
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IMG Academy Football At Center Of Debate Over High School Sports Commercialization

IMG Academy's high school football program is just four years old, but has "already become a fearsome, controversial powerhouse," and sits at the "apex of the commercialization of high-school sports," according to Reagan & Schwartzel of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. IMG Academy, owned and operated by parent firm Endeavor, is an "elite, for-profit boarding school -- and the leading producer" of top college and NFL prospects. Families "pay $75,200 in annual tuition." IMG Academy has not lost since '14 and is "ranked No. 2 in the U.S." Parents and players "seem happy overall with the return on their investment." But critics feel the academy "damages football’s central role in communities when it lures budding stars away from their hometowns." Players on this year’s team "come from 29 states, and many were recruited to create a literal all-star team." While some players "get financial aid, most pay the full cost of $75,200 a year." Getting parents to pay is a "crucial part of the business model." IMG Academy co-Managing Dir Greg Phillips said that more than 80% of IMG Academy’s revenue "comes from tuition." The academy "added a second football team this year," and enrollment has "climbed to almost 1,100 high-school students from about 680" in '11. Phillips said, "We thought we could make (football) work as a business. It worked faster than we anticipated." WME-IMG co-President Mark Shapiro said that the company has "invested hundreds of millions of dollars" in the school. He also noted the company is "nowhere near" recouping its investment. However, sources said that IMG Academy is "profitable on an operating basis" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/28).