By now, most sports fans have heard of the Bishop Sycamore-ESPN broadcast debacle. If you haven’t, here’s a quick synopsis: a fake school, using some players who are one to years out of high school, scammed their way into a national ESPN broadcast of a non-league game against national power IMG Academy by lying about college interest of its players.

Bishop Sycamore has been called to carpet, and rightly so. A scam school, with a scam team “duping” other nationally-recognized programs into scheduling the Centurions.

But why isn’t IMG Academy not receiving any scrutiny? More athletic factory than high school, the players that comprise the Ascenders roster are the best of the best. A program where nearly every kid holds, or will receive, a college scholarship.

And yet, like Bishop Sycamore, which is supposedly based in Ohio, IMG Academy is not a member of its Florida’s high school association, which, in some states, precludes them from playing association-affiliated schools.

California has implemented, and Georgia is trying to implement, rules that curb scheduling against schools like Bishop Sycamore and IMG Academy. In California, schools are only allowed to play out-of-state teams that are eligible for their state playoffs. That’s why you haven’t seen California powers such as De La Salle, Mater Dei and St. John’s Bosco schedule IMG.

The thing is, the players at IMG are good. Really good. It’s not like they needed the platform of a national schedule to put them on the recruiting map. These kids would have earned college scholarships no matter where they played.

Instead, the program collects the best players in the country — depriving their local communities of watching fantastic athletes in the process —puts them all on the same team and then “contends” for a mythical national championship. IMG is not even eligible to win a Florida title. Why should they be considered in the running for a national title?

To me, IMG Academy is simply at the other end of the spectrum from Bishop Sycamore — a sports factory masquerading as a high school.

***

Two events into the 2021-22 high school athletic campaign and I’ve already been surprised at the number of fans who have turned out. It really seems like people are just itching to get back out and enjoy their community again.

Last Friday was a no-brainer. I knew the first football game to allow fans since the 2019 season was going to be big and the fans for the Hillsdale-Terra Nova matchup did not disappoint. The Hillsdale stands were at near standing-room only by kickoff and Terra Nova always travels well.

But I was truly stunned to see the turnout at the Burlingame High School tennis courts when the Panthers girls’ tennis team hosted San Francisco’s Lick Wilmerding.

High school tennis is not a big fan draw. There may be a few parents in attendance, but the bulk of the people in the bleachers are usually reserve players.

Tuesday was not the case. Apparently Lick Wilmerding parents, like Terra Nova parents, travel well. There also seemed to a larger number of Burlingame parents in attendance, as well.

Add it all up and it was the most people I’ve seen at a tennis match since the Central Coast Section championship match between Harker and Menlo in May. In addition, the activity buzzing around the Burlingame Aquatic Center simply added to the atmosphere.

Hopefully this kind of attendance continues throughout the season in all sports — as long as everyone keeps up with their COVID protocol. The rules are kind of fluid right now, so just use your head when it comes to these getting-larger gatherings.

***

In staying with a tennis theme, Addie Ahlstrom, a 2021 Menlo School graduate who is playing tennis at Brown University, is not idly waiting for the spring season to begin.

A two-time recipient of the Daily Journal’s Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year, teamed with her father, Lars, to capture the title at the USTA Level 1 National Senior Father-Daughter Grass Court tournament at Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts early last month.

The Alhstroms ended the reign of Jerry Morse-Karzen and his daughter Becky Morse-Karzen, who was the four-time defending champions and a five-time winner of the event.

It seems Addie Ahlstrom was destined to play college tennis. Lars Ahlstrom played tennis at Stanford in the early 1980s. Her mom Michelle played tennis at University of Virginia.

***

Notre Dame-Belmont is looking for head coaches for both the varsity and JV track and field programs. Practices are held on campus, at Serra and occasionally at College of San Mateo. If interested in applying, contact Notre Dame-Belmont athletic director Jason Levine at jlevine@ndhsb.org.

Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: Nathan@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: 650-344-5200 ext. 117. Results and statistics can be emailed to: sports@smdailyjournal.com.

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