With the NFL regular season still weeks away, my Sundays have been spent watching everything but football. But perhaps I should’ve caught the high school showdown between Florida’s IMG Academy and Ohio’s Bishop Sycamore this weekend because holy fucking shit.
To be clear, what I didn’t miss was an instant classic between two powerhouse football programs—as evidenced by the 58-0 drubbing IMG Academy put on their opponent. But what I did miss was a complete shit show in which Bishop Sycamore’s football program—and eventually the school itself—was exposed as an elaborate scam in front of the entire world.
(This would be the opportune time to toss some popcorn in the microwave before I continue.)
Per Sporting News, in having a kind and generous heart, ESPN is known to broadcast games between elite high school football teams prior to the start of the NFL and college football seasons. It’s a great way to showcase upcoming talent, and with IMG Academy—a Florida-based prep boarding school that consistently ranks as one of the best programs in the country—loaded with future D1 and NFL players, why not give them some much-deserved love on national television? Allegedly Bishop Sycamore boasted similar credentials despite their 0-6 record last season, so broadcasting a game between the two of them sounded like a perfect fit for ESPN programming.
Until it wasn’t.
By the second quarter, it was abundantly clear that Bishop Sycamore was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out of its league on the field and had clearly lied about the caliber of talent on its roster. However, what made this discovery so fascinating was that it was the announcers who came to the realization that ESPN had been duped.
“Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster. To be frank, a lot of that we could not verify,” one broadcaster said. “They did not show up in our database. They did not show up in the databases of other recruiting services. OK, fine, if that’s what you’re telling us, fine, that’s how we take it in. From what we’ve seen so far, this is not a fair fight, and there’s got to be a point (Tom Luginbill) where you’ve got to worry about health and safety.”
- Bishop Sycamore describes itself as an online charter school, yet isn’t listed in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s directory of schools.
- The school’s official website is janky as hell. It’s since been completely deleted, but days ago there was minimal mention about the school’s supposedly elite football program and both the “About Us” and “Staff” sections were completely blank, per CBS Sports.
- Their head coach, Roy Johnson has an active warrant out for his arrest (for a domestic violence incident) and is facing multiple civil lawsuits for defaulting on a $100,00 loan, eviction notices, and other offenses.
- This weekend, the team played two games within a 48-hour period, which raises serious questions about ethics and player safety.
- The team isn’t even made up of high schoolers. Many of them are actually postgraduates, with some having played junior college football. That means they’re just a little older than your typical high school football player.
- The school has had to cancel games in the past due to issues with their roster, a failure to make travel accommodations, and...wait for it...other teams discovering that Bishop Sycamore was fielding players older than high schoolers.
- The school set up a GoFundMe on Aug. 21 for a “new football program getting established in Columbus” that plays “a national schedule which is ranked 4th in the nation.” The campaign raised a grand total of $140 toward its $20,000 goal, but oddly enough, is no longer accepting donations.
- There’s all kinds of fuckery going on with its roster, beginning with only having between 30 to 35 players available to play, and including this jaw-dropper from CBS Sports:
For example, quarterback Jailen Knight got the start against IMG Academy and his Twitter account states that he is a three-star prospect in the 2023 class. However, Knight’s Hudl page says that he plays for Perry Hall High School in Baltimore. Knight also has a 247Sports recruiting profile that lists him as an unrecruited quarterback who graduated in 2021. Meanwhile, quarterback Trillian Harris is listed on Hudl as a senior quarterback from Bishop Sycamore. However, Harris’ 247Sports profile lists him as a California quarterback in the 2021 class who wasn’t recruited.
There’s also the fact that players share helmets:
And that whole “two games in 48 hours” thing apparently isn’t an isolated incident:
This all begs the question: How in theeeeeeeee fuck did ESPN get played so badly?!?!!?!?!?!?!!? For their part, the network has pinned the blame on Paragon Marketing Group, which apparently was responsible for scheduling the matchup.
“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,” the network said in a statement to Yahoo Sports. “They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.”
Lord Jesus. What a shit show.
Hopefully, the authorities swoop in and clean up this outrageous mess immediately, as the health and safety of God knows how many kids is at stake.