IMG Academy cancels penultimate national game after opponent's registration revoked

Photo: Casey Brooke Lawson

IMG Academy cancels penultimate national game after opponent's registration revoked


IMG Academy cancels penultimate national game after opponent's registration revoked


It appears USA TODAY Super 25 No. 3 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) won’t have a football game on Friday night, despite its schedule setting the October 26 game as the national team’s final home game. That’s because the planned-on opponent after that school’s registration was revoked by the Ohio Department of Education.

As reported by the Gatehouse news service imprint This Week News, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) revoked the school registration of Christians of Faith Academy, a school that could fairly be considered a “football factory,” nominally based in Columbus, that had no physical location and few unifying connections beyond a football team.

RELATED: Full IMG Academy coverage | USA TODAY Super 25 football rankings

The school was started suddenly over the summer by former Ohio State and NFL player Jay Richardson. He was able to recruit in other high profile assistant coaches and a crop of standout prospects in part drawn by a hyper-competitive schedule; Christians of Faith was scheduled to play IMG, Cleveland-area powers St. Ignatius and St. Edward, Detroit-area contender Brother Rice, St. Louis powerhouse Christian Brothers and Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy, another of the nation’s top programs.

Yet all of that apparently came crashing down Friday, when the ODE revoked the school’s registration because it conducted an investigation and found, among other things, that the school was not operating in the address it had identified with the state. The address given for the school was the headquarters for the Third Episcopal District of the AME church, which has since disavowed any knowledge of the school and its operations.

Class of 2018 seniors at IMG Academy (Photo: Casey Brooke Lawson)

Meanwhile, the man who has emerged as the true face of Christians of Faith, Roy Johnson, said he was surprised by the department’s decision because the program has had student athletes enrolled in an academic program (via the Minnesota-based Edmentum company‘s online offering, Ed Options), with those student athletes meeting to work on homework and their classes in libraries and, “other locations.”

“Our kids have signed up with the Edmentum program, EdOptions, and we’ve actually held classes,” Johnson told This Week News. “They have classes that they’re in and they’re started. (The ODE) knows that’s online, so I don’t know if that’s an issue.”

There have been red flags about COF Academy since its inception. Per This Week News, the school materialized “out of thin air” while it, “did not have a school building, a working website, an identifiable academic structure, an announced home field or a released roster.”

While some of those issues were resolved, others — such as a school building — never were. And now, the crème de la crème of its schedule has been wiped clean.

IMG will have another football game on Friday night, but that will be played by the program’s “white” team, a roster which plays a local rather than national schedule. That team is scheduled to face off with Calvary Christian School (Clearwater, Fla.) at 7 p.m. The IMG “blue” team which competes on a full national schedule will finish with a game at traditional Alabama power Hoover High School Friday, Nov. 2.

It’s difficult to ascertain whether this canceled game could have an impact on IMG Academy’s Super 25 national title chances. The Ascenders already would have required some luck following an early-season loss to Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.). The elimination of one of the program’s final two chances to earn style points doesn’t help it’s case, but it may not hurt it, either. If nothing else, IMG Academy proved that it was more responsible and committed to playing opponents from legitimate academic institutions by calling off the Christians of Faith matchup.


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