IMG Academy suspends Mark Riddell after college admissions bribery scandal

IMG said it does not think the Palmetto man’s alleged misconduct affected its students.
Athletes compete in the 100 meter hurdle during the FHSAA statewide track and field finals on Friday afternoon, May 6, 2016 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. ( ZACK WITTMAN | Times)
Athletes compete in the 100 meter hurdle during the FHSAA statewide track and field finals on Friday afternoon, May 6, 2016 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. ( ZACK WITTMAN | Times)
Published March 13
Updated March 13

IMG Academy’s Mark Riddell said Wednesday he is “profoundly sorry” for his role in a college admissions cheating scandal, and IMG said it has no reason to believe his actions affected its students or staff.

According to federal law enforcement, the Palmetto resident received thousands of dollars to take the SAT and ACT for high school students.

“I want to communicate to everyone that I am profoundly sorry for the damage I have done and grief I have caused those as a result of my needless actions,” Riddell said in a statement released through his Tampa attorney, Ben Stechschulte. “I understand how my actions contributed to a loss of trust in the college admissions process. I assume full responsibility for what I have done…

“I will always regret the choices I made, but I also believe that the more than one thousand students I legitimately counseled, inspired, and helped reach their goals in my career will paint a more complete picture of the person I truly am.”

Although some people involved in the scandal are accused of bribery, Riddell said he never did so. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

On Tuesday, Riddell was indefinitely suspended from his job as the director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG, the boarding school and athletic training facility in Bradenton. Neither IMG nor its athletes were mentioned by name in any of the documents, but his involvement raised questions about a program that produces elite athletes has become a prep football powerhouse.

IMG gave its answer Wednesday evening, saying it does not think anything improper went on with its athletes.

“With the current information at hand, we have no reason to believe this alleged misconduct extends beyond Mr. Riddell, nor do we believe that these actions have any direct relation to Academy students, parents, or staff,” IMG said in a statement.

Federal authorities allege that Riddell spent years taking tests for students, usually receiving $10,000 from the charitable accounts of a California man, William Rick Singer.

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For example, authorities say Riddell received a copy of a student’s handwriting to try to imitate in July and flew from Tampa to Houston. The next day, he took the ACT in his hotel room and flew back to Tampa. He later received a check for $10,000, according to the complaint.

Riddell had been with IMG since 2006, according to an online bio that was removed from the facility’s site Tuesday. The NCAA said in a statement Tuesday that it will investigate to see if any of its rules were broken in the scandal.

“The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education," the NCAA said in its statement. "We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”

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