DESPITE PUSHBACK, ST. JOE’S PREP STILL WANTS TO PLAY CONTROVERSIAL FLORIDA FOOTBALL FACTORY IN FALL
Recently fired IMG Academy Director of College Entrance Exams Mark Riddell faces 3 to 40 years in prison for rigging SAT scores for rich kids. It is just part of a slew of bad publicity for IMG Worldwide properties. The Prep has a date with this school in September.
Is The Prep dragging the Philadelphia Catholic League’s brand into the College Admissions Scandal?
By AL THOMPSON
Recently, long time LaSalle College High School Athletic Director Joseph Parisi was asked about the scheduled football game this September between St. Joe’s Prep and IMG Academy of Bradenton Florida.
He answered in an intense manner, “As long as I am here, we will never play them (IMG Academy).”
Most of the problems Parisi has with IMG Academy center around the fact that IMG Academy is not a real school, but a business that is only about sports and the fact that the football program plucks top players from existing programs around the country after their freshman and sophomore seasons.
Several other schools in the Philadelphia Catholic League and the area have similar concerns.
All expressed even more concern over why the Prep didn’t cancel the game after long time IMG Academy college admissions director Mark Riddell pleaded guilty to criminal charges on April 12 for rigging SAT scores for dozens of students for over six years. He made a reported $240,000 during the scam. He is scheduled for sentencing on July 18.
Riddell had been working for IMG Academy since 2006.
According to federal prosecutors, Riddell played a key role in an arrangement hatched by William “Rick” Singer, an admissions consultant accused of orchestrating the scheme for years while catering to a rich clientele that included Hollywood stars and business executives.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports wrote in March, a month before Riddell pleaded guilty:
“If Riddell has actually been taking standardized tests for Singer’s clients in return for thousands of dollars, it raises the question of whether he has also provided the same service for IMG athletes seeking to meet minimum NCAA academic requirements. Riddell’s now-deleted bio on IMG’s website said he began working for the school in 2006 and “assisted thousands of students in gaining admission to top American universities such as Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago and others.”
St. Joe’s Prep is led by first-year head coach Tim Roken, who served as an assistant coach for several years under Gabe Infante. He left last year for a coaching job at Temple.
One St. Joe Prep alumni, who did not want his name used and now is in his early 60s told Footballstories, “This is really bad for the Prep. There is no reason we should be playing this school.”
Philadelphia Archdiocese Athletic Director Stephen Haug told Footballstories that he was not happy that St. Joe’s Prep was playing IMG Academy. No. 1, because the game is being played in Philadelphia, and it opened the door for IMG Academy to go after the rosters of an entire league that has produced such NFL players as Rich Gannon, Maurice Stovall, Harry Swayne, Frank Wycheck, Kevin Jones and Marvin Harrison, to name a few.
Since St. Joe’s Prep is a private school, Haug said he does not have the authority to cancel the game.
Many believe this is fertile ground for IMG Academy to recruit.
In a related matter, As of press time it is believed IMG Academy will host the 2019 “World’s Strongest Man” TV competition from June 13-16, 2019 on its campus. “World’s Strongest Man,” owned and operated by IMG, was rebuked by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2014 and again in 2016 for the competition’s lack of testing for steroids, rampant steroid use and high fatality rate. IMG’s top athlete and defending “World’s Strongest Man” champion Hafthor Bjornsson has had multiple allegations in his home country Iceland of domestic violence against women. In 2017 Bjornsson was criminally charged in one of the domestic violence acts.
In mid April, ESPN published a report that Bjornsson admitted he has used steroids to compete in the “World’s Strongest Man.” He is scheduled to appear at IMG Academy in mid June to defend his title.
The registered non-profit POYS (Protect Our Youth from Steroids), owned by Footballstories editor Al Thompson, filed a complaint with Roken and Prep Athletic Director Denis Hart asking for the game to be canceled.
Haug said he talked to Hart twice. Haug sent this email to Footballstories at press time. “I don’t believe they plan to cancel the game at this time.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii