IMG Academy puts in bid to host Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, NCAA D-III football title game

jdill@bradenton.comOctober 4, 2013 

MANATEE -- Months after IMG Academy launched a football program and state-of-the art stadium into the high school sports scene, the private sports academy is pushing for a seat at the collegiate sports table.

According to records obtained by the Bradenton Herald, IMG is bidding to become the host of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the NCAA's Division III national championship football game.

The game was held at Manatee High's Hawkins Stadium from 1990 to 1992, before moving to Salem, Va. The game does not have a host site locked down after 2014.

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, whose district includes IMG's land, met with IMG's Sam Zussman, Gary Pluchino and Blake Ulrich on Aug. 9, according to county records.

Zussman is the senior vice president of IMG worldwide and IMG Performance's managing director, while Pluchino is IMG Performance's vice president of business development. Ulrich is IMG's director of events.

"When he was going through the list, I thought, 'Oh, are you going for the Alonzo Stagg Bowl again?'" Chappie said. "It was exciting. I think it was good for the community. I'm not sure what happened and why it never came back. I followed the Stagg Bowl over the years, and they seem to have problems with locations. You can't any better than Manatee County for a sporting event like that."

IMG's bid reportedly includes other sports, including the Florida High School Athletic Association state lacrosse finals, according to an email sent from IMG to Chappie. But IMG declined comment on the bid or what those sports might be; phone calls to the NCAA were not returned.

Typically, the bid process for national championship events ends in December when the winning sites are announced. The deadline for submitting the bid was Sept. 16.

"The NCAA -- the applications -- I hope they're successful," Chappie said. "I think it's a tremendous opportunity to showcase what we have here and the type of community that we have here, and the character of our community, Manatee County, because there's really nothing like it."

The NCAA's guidelines for the bid are determined by a variety of factors. They include creation of special opportunities and experiences for student-athletes, adherence to bid specifications, proposed facilities, proposed budget and additional costs (travel, hotel, etc.).

More than 500 sites from the 2014-15 through 2017-18 academic years will be awarded to host sports from preliminary rounds through championship games when the NCAA announces winning bidders in December.

"I think it could be a good fit," Manatee County Commissioner and Tourist Development Council chairwoman Carol Whitmore said.

One potential hurdle for the IMG bid is having a host school with which to partner. Bids must come from an NCAA member institution or conference. In lieu of that, a bid can have an NCAA member or conference associated with it.

And that member school does not have to have a close proximity to the winning bid site.

For example, the Tampa Bay Times reported the Tampa Bay Times Forum was listed as the host site when the University of Wisconsin put in three bids to host the NCAA's Frozen Four in 2016, 2017 or 2018.

-- Herald business reporter Charles Schelle contributed to this report.

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