The curious case of Bishop Sycamore seems to grow stranger by the second. On Monday, new details emerged about the the high school football team that was, or might’ve never been.
ESPN aired a nationally televised game on Sunday afternoon between Florida powerhouse IMG Academy and Ohio’s “Bishop Sycamore.” The match-up was billed as a battle between two of the nation’s top high school programs, with numerous highly-touted prospects on both teams.
However, it became apparent very early on in the game that the two schools were not evenly matched. IMG won the game in a rout, 58-0, as fans and commentators alike questioned how exactly the Ohio program had gotten into the nationally televised contest.
And so began the unravelling of Bishop Sycamore.
Reports revealed that Bishop Sycamore “duped” ESPN by lying about is roster before the game. Not only did the school claim to have multiple Division I prospects, but it also played another game on Friday night, meaning that players were taking the field for a second time in three days on Sunday.
Even more concerning, ESPN later confirmed that the Ohio High School Athletic Association doesn’t recognize Bishop Sycamore as a legitimate high school and that the school’s “physical location, practice facilities, and roster eligibility could not be verified.”
The tale of Bishop Sycamore grew even more disturbing on Monday afternoon. According to a report from Complex, the team’s head coach, Roy Johnson, allegedly has an active arrest warrant for fraud charges. In addition, some of the players on the Bishop Sycamore team are said to have already graduated high school and played in junior college in past years.
Sports fans could barely believe that a group of people pulled off this elaborate ruse to dupe one of the most respected sports networks in the United States. While some admired whoever is in charge of Bishop Sycamore, others expressed serious concern for those that might’ve been caught up in this scheme unwillingly.
One of the CRAZIEST stories you'll ever see.
Bishop Sycamore, an alleged fake high school, reportedly lied to ESPN to get on national television.
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 30, 2021
ESPN: what D1 prospects do you have?
Bishop Sycamore: pic.twitter.com/sBdPukNUDL
— Charles J. Moore (@charles270) August 30, 2021
From this story that keeps getting wilder:
There has never been a Bishop Sycamore
They played two games in three days
Their head coach currently has an ACTIVE arrest warrant
Most of the players are JUCO dropouts who are nowhere near HS age
How was ESPN scammed this badly?? https://t.co/52KIY4BHWc
— Dawson Boyd (@dawsontboyd) August 30, 2021
"It isn't clear if Bishop Sycamore is a school at all for the 2021-22 school year." https://t.co/Wz94ywFRz8
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) August 30, 2021
Bishop Sycamore abbreviating to BS was probably a warning sign that got blown past https://t.co/x1s5T2xkeq
— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) August 30, 2021
I choose to use the Bishop Sycamore story to remind myself how many people there are in high school football who do things the right way, who put kids' best interests at the center. A lot of good in high school football, enough that you don't have to dwell on the sordid. #TXHSFB
— Greg Tepper (@Tepper) August 30, 2021
ESPN apologized for not doing its “due diligence” in researching Bishop Sycamore before the game. The network released a statement on Monday explaining what happened.
“We regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling,” ESPN said. “They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.”
Time will tell if stiff penalties are on the way for Bishop Sycamore, or if that’s even possible given the shaky legitimacy of the program as a whole. Stay tuned for more information as the situation continues to develop.