Sponsored by IMG Academy

Friday, April 3, 2009

IMG Becomes Player in College Sports Landscape; Gottfried Hired at Bollettieri's

Wednesday's USA Today featured a lengthy article on IMG's increasing influence in college athletics. Most of the discussion of their role revolves around the revenue-producing sports of football and basketball, but later in the story, college golf and tennis were mentioned.

Iowa faculty athletics representative Elizabeth Altmaier, a consultant to a group of 11 college presidents constituting the recent NCAA Task Force on Commercial Activity in Division I Intercollegiate Athletics, says IMG's circle of interests and the presence of its employees on campuses, as typically occurs at partner schools, creates a shadow.

IMG limiting its large-volume athlete representation to golfers and tennis players "does not allay my concerns about commercialism or amateurism at all," she says. "In fact (tennis and golf) are where the greatest pressures are coming for actual pay for play in the collegiate ranks." For example, there recently have been NCAA legislative proposals to allow athletes in individual sports to accept prize money won in open events as long as the amount doesn't exceed the athlete's expenses.

As for IMG's campus presence, she says, "I would regard that as a significant potential for a conflict of interest, and the difficulty comes about in determining who is ensuring that an actual conflict of interest does not occur — and I don't at this point know that I could identify that person or those persons."

Of course, the fact is that amateur tennis players can already offset expenses with payments from "open" tournaments they compete in, although I believe this is a reference to that tabled proposal that would have allowed pre-collegians to accept up to $10,000 prior to beginning their college careers.

Is IMG getting an unfair advantage if it signs a deal with a school for say, TV rights? Is that likely to result in potential professionals automatically signing with IMG?

Not according to IMG's George Pyne.

Even with IMG signing Georgia quarterback and potential No. 1 NFL draft pick Matthew Stafford in February to a marketing representation deal, Pyne says, "It's a legitimate question … if we were labor negotiators who were trying to sign up people in bulk on college campuses. We look for the select people who are iconic properties and try to provide marketing services. I'm never going to say it will never be a possibility, but so far it hasn't presented itself." Pyne also says IMG rarely signs college golfers or tennis players; it generally signs athletes in those sports earlier in their careers.

Because, unlike the team pro sports, there is no minimum age for a professional in those sports.

Tennis Week recently posted an interview with Brian Gottfried, who has joined the staff at IMG/Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Bradenton, on a part-time basis. He and Brad Gilbert, who is also coming to Bradenton for regular coaching work, couldn't be less alike, but there's no doubt they both love tennis and are talented tennis minds.

And to make this a completely IMG post, the Bradenton Herald had this story on the Bradenton facility and its economic impact on the area, as well as its recent push to get more NFL players there to train in the off-season.


Austin said...

Is Buchannon going to stay at #2? He's played two good players and has yet to win a set.

Also, UK need to move Quigley up to #2 and Cox down to #3. Maybe Emery doesnt want him to move up too fast, not sure.

vincent chase said...

colette- you do not need to publish this but according to my understanding, junior players can take up to their actual expenses but once in college, the athlete cannot take any prize $$ period regardless of expenses.

dont be so rude said...

hey Austin

Don't you think you should at least say - "off topic but..."

What you said has nothing to do with Colette's post. She works very hard to get this info to us and what you said has nothing to do with the topic.

I'm sure your statement is worth posting, I just think you should acknowledge the current post first and then state your thoughts.

Colette Lewis said...

@Vincent Chase
When I asked a Pro Circuit tournament supervisor about this several years ago, he said amateurs get a per diem, and there were not different kinds of amateurs. If I'm wrong on this, I hope someone will correct me.

txcollege10s said...

Iowa's Altmaier is so far off base, it is almost comical. Her statement that tennis and golf "are where the greatest pressures are coming for actual pay for play in the collegiate ranks," is an insult to anyone who has actually read a newspaper during football or basketball season during the last few years. There has long been an outcry for pay-for-play for those sports that are actually revenue generating. The money is so much bigger. We are talking billions of dollars the NCAA (including member schools) are making from the CBS basketball and BCS football deals.

Am I saying college tennis is as pure as the driven snow? Heck no, but please don't try and act like it is anywhere near as shady as DI football or basketball.

When IMG got into the collegiate marketing business in 2007, by purchasing the CLC and HOST Communications, they did their homework to try and drop all sense of impropriety.

I know this first hand. I am a former HOST employee and still do freelance work for one division of the company. My wife also works for IMG College and was a former HOST employee. My sister handles CLC licensing for a Division I school.

This article was written because IMG College announced it had obtained the rights to Ohio State this Monday, an incredible addition to an already strong stable of partners.

Let's think this through now. Do you really think that any single member of the Ohio State tennis team knows that? Do you really think that having a group of people whose goal is to sell signage and advertising for the athletic department gives IMG an 'in' when they try to sign Chase Buchanan in one of the coming summers? Heck no.

Sorry for the rant, but the talk about impropriety is grandstanding. Wait, you (the NCAA) can take all of the money in the world for the BCS and March Madness, but the schools cannot take money???

Unknown said...

That IMG campus is very interesting to visit. There are elite athletes there....like 5% of the people.

But what surprised me was how many mediocre kids there were. As long as the parents can pay the bill, they get in, there is no 'admissions' criteria based on talent.

It is obvious that the 95% of the kids who are mediocre and have parents paying for them to be there pay the bills for the few elite kids that actually have a chance and are on scholarship.

McLovin said...

Amtex, that's how the system works. It reminds me of the old saying, if you're in a poker game and you don't know who the pasty is, then it's you. There are a lot of patsys at IMG! There were a couple of kids in our section who went to an academy for two years. They came back in the 16s and couldn't win a match. They were better players before they went. They sure knew how to rally from the baseline but they had no sense of closing out matches.

Unknown said...

I hear that McLovin. I guess I always assumed there was an invitation required based on talent just to get into IMG. I was totally shocked to see that most of the kids were just regular kids whose parents paid to have them play there.

The basketball section was totally different, every kid there was elite. But the tennis was mostly average kids you would see on any local club court.