When Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) scheduled IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) for football this season, it helped attract a TV date with ESPN and a number of elite transfers to Grayson, as noted by us last spring.
IMG’s prominence also has also led several elite high school players from suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County to transfer to the Florida academy, including four top recruits this offseason.
That type of transfer tsunami to IMG led the Georgia High School Association’s Executive Committee, in its monthly meeting on Monday, to tweak a bylaw that would prevent GHSA schools from scheduling IMG after this season.
This year, the Gwinnett transfers to IMG include Norcross defensive end Robert Beal; Archer (Lawrenceville) defensive back Isaiah Pryor; Dacula defensive tackle T.K. Chimedza and Mountain View (Lawrenceville) defensive end Elijah Watson.
While the point of the bylaw was directed at the impact of the No. 4-ranked IMG football program, the change could keep Georgia basketball powerhouses such as Wheeler (Marietta) and Miller Grove (Lithonia) out of major basketball tournaments as well.
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As reported originally by the Gwinnett Daily Post, and confirmed by GHSA spokesman Steve Figueroa, “This new rule is only to prohibit play with so-called ‘affiliated’ members, which some state associations allow (Georgia does not have any partial members; you either are or are not a member),” Figueroa said in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “Play against full association member schools, or against private schools which are not allowed to join their association, will continue as usual.”
IMG Academy plays other state schools, but it does not participate in the state football playoffs. However, according to Florida High School Athletic Association spokesman Kyle Niblett, that is IMG’s choice and the school is a full member, not an affiliated or partial member, of the FHSAA.
IMG Academy athletic officials were not available for comment.
However the GHSA looks at IMG, if Georgia teams can’t play the Ascenders in football, the impact is relatively small because most national powers in high school football play for a state title.
The landscape is different in basketball. The varsity boys basketball team at three-time Super 25 champion Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), like IMG in football, is a member of the FHSAA but it does not play for a state title.
Figueroa pointed out that GHSA basketball teams would still be able to play Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) because it is not a member of its state high school association.
Other prep basketball powerhouses such as Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) or Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, Utah), though, might be considered, by the GHSA as “partial” members of their respective state associations and thus ineligible to play.
Wheeler (Marietta), a six-time state champion in basketball, has frequently played a national schedule that includes teams such as Montverde and Findlay Prep.
“I love playing teams like that because they’re the best in the country,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “I would hope we could continue to play teams like that.”
Last season, Wasatch Academy defeated Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) 97-73 in a holiday tournament in Atlanta. Next year, that same opportunity might not happen because of the bylaw change.
“It gave us a measuring stick to see where we were,” Sandy Creek coach Anthony McKissic said. “It gave our guys who want to play in college a chance to see what they will be in for. In basketball, you need to play those type of teams. Colleges want to see you against the best competition.”
Last year, when Miller Grove, a public school, made it to the finals of the DICK’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, the Wolverines defeated Findlay Prep in the semifinals. The question is whether the Wolverines would be invited again if they weren’t able to play a Montverde or Findlay Prep.