At the start of the football season, ESPN is known for showcasing some of the best high school football teams in the country to give young players the spotlight before the college football and NFL seasons begin.
IMG Academy, a prep boarding school in Florida, is still one of the best programs in the country and is always full of future Division I and NFL talent. Their opponent on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Classic at Canton’s Hall of Fame Stadium in Ohio is also reportedly loaded with Division I players, prompting ESPN to broadcast the game.
Except that Bishop Sycamore, the opponent of the Ascenders, was not packed with talent. He might not even have rested. There is even a chance that it is not a real school. And the final score was 58-0.
After the fallout, Bishop Sycamore founder and manager Andre Peterson told USA Today that team coach Roy Johnson has been fired.
So how did ESPN end up broadcasting this rout? Sporting News dives.
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Where is Bishop Sycomore?
Bishop Sycamore appears to be based in Columbus, Ohio.
However, this does not tell if it is a real school. First, schools with “bishop” in their name tend to be Catholic schools named after local bishops or other notable bishops. The Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, the city in which Bishop Sycamore claims to be based, does not list anyone named Bishop Sycamore in its history.
Peterson told USA Today that both have been around for four years and were not founded until 2019.
Then that leads to what kind of school Bishop Sycamore is, exactly. According to the Massillon Independent, Bishop Sycamore is an online charter school. It is not listed in the Ohio High School Athletic Association schools directory and the Independent reports that it is a non-OHSAA school. Instead, the team is listed as a Texas Christian Athletic League member school – yes, Texas – although it’s not the only school out of state, as Ocean Springs Grace Baptist in Mississippi is also listed as a National Division school.
According to the USA Today report, the Ohio Department of Education did not list a “Bishop Sycamore” among its 2021-22 charter schools, and when it was listed last year, it was classified as “unaccredited, unpaid school tax,” which is “because of truly entrenched religious beliefs, chooses not to be approved by the State Board of Education”. The report states that Bishop Sycamore is listed as having a PO box address for his school, and that Peterson explained that it was because the students at the school had been harassed at the previous location.
Bishop Sycamore football history
What is the footballing experience of the Centurions? As a team, not much, it seems. As individual players, maybe more than most high school kids.
The school website has five blog posts, the most recent being May 21, and nothing in its “About Us” or “Personal” section and the “Calendar” tab only says “Calendar 2021 to to come”. Its “Camps” page lists 12 on the schedule for 2021, mostly with Division I programs like Clemson, Georgia and TCU.
A GoFundMe page on behalf of the team was created on August 21 stating that this is a “new football program being established in Columbus” and says it plays “a national schedule ranked 4th in the country”. He currently raised $ 140 of a goal of $ 20,000.
On MaxPreps, the team’s schedule is loaded with several other football teams in eight different states, including the Duncanville National Central in Dallas. The team’s schedule last season showed it was 0-6 and was outscored 227-42. This is the only other schedule on the team’s MaxPreps page.
Not on their schedule was a game against Sto-Rox, a high school in Allegheny County, Pa., On Friday. But according to TribLive, Sto-Rox beat Bishop Sycamore 19-7. The only game on their 2021 schedule that has yet been played was a clash against Archbishop of Akron Hoban which ended in a 58-0 loss on August 19.
While the team seems like they haven’t spent much time together, the list raises even more questions. A reporter covering Archbishop Hoban’s game shared what he received before the game.
Imagine that. Bishop Sycamore didn’t give the guys on TV an exact or complete list.
This is the “roster” we were given when they played against Archbishop Hoban last week … 🤦♂️🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/e51OJCAuOA
– Ryan (@ Isley23) August 29, 2021
The list appears to be filled with several players who may have already graduated from high school from other states. The quarterback who played against IMG Academy was Jailen Knight, whose The Twitter account said he was a three-star prospect in the 2023 class, while his biography links him to a Hudl page for Perry Hall High School in Baltimore, Maryland. Meanwhile, a 247Sports recruiting page lists Knight as an un-recruited QB, who graduated in 2021. Trillian Harris signs up on Hudl as Bishop Sycamore’s senior quarterback, while a 247Sports page on presents as California QB in the 2021 class who was not recruited, and images from his Hudl page appear to confirm he played for Mission Viejo. Lineman Javan Peterson is showing off as a junior on Hudl, but his timeline shows highlights from a sophomore year in 2018 – which would make him a 2021 graduate – while playing with CoF Academy in Columbus.
Whether Bishop Sycamore is a real school trying to get a foot in the door of high school football in Ohio or not, two games in three days, including against a team loaded with the nation’s top prospects, is incredibly dangerous. And it’s a game that should have been stopped before it started, let alone being broadcast on national television.
How did it happen?
Even the ESPN broadcast team didn’t seem to have the answer for this one.
Play-by-play commentator Anish Shroff said midway through the second quarter, with IMG Academy leading 30-0, that the school told them they had “a number of Division I prospects on their roster”.
“To be farnk, a lot of this we couldn’t verify and it wasn’t showing up in our database, it wasn’t showing up in the databases of other recruiting services,” Shroff said. “It’s okay if that’s what you tell us, okay that’s how we understand it. For what we’ve seen so far, it’s not a fair fight and it there must be a time now when you are concerned about health and safety. “
Analyst Tom Luginbill responded by saying he was already worried about the game, saying he thought it was not just a lag with the talent up front, but noted that Bishop Sycamore didn’t seem not have the necessary depth if his players were wearing out. .
According to Awful Annoncing, the game was programmed by Paragon Marketing Group. The report states that Paragon chairman Rashid Ghazi said the group was unaware Bishop Sycamore played a match on Friday and that if he had, the match would have been called off. Additionally, Ghazi said the company wished they had done more due diligence in their research on the team.
“We regret that this happened and discussed it with Paragon, who secured the game and manages the majority of the programming for our high school events. They assured us that they would take action to prevent this kind of situation from happening, “ESPN Communications said in a statement.