A national ESPN broadcast featured a game between one of the best high school football teams in the country and a team no one had heard of until Sunday's matchup. Bishop Sycamore—which claims to be an online prep school based in Columbus, Ohio—has yet to record a victory and was clearly outmatched, losing 58-0 to Florida's IMG Academy. But it turns out Bishop Sycamore isn't recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association and might not be a legitimate school at all:
- Last year, the Ohio Department of Education listed Bishop Sycamore as a "non-chartered, non-tax supported school," that chose not to be chartered by the State Board of Education "because of truly held religious beliefs," per the Columbus Dispatch.
- Its website is essentially blank, while the physical address given is that of an indoor sports facility. An employee there told the Dispatch that a group of about 30 people come to work out about once a month but there is no schooling involved.
- Suspicions began to surface in the second quarter, as commentator Anish Shroff said ESPN couldn't verify Bishop Sycamore's claims that its roster included Division I prospects. "They had no business being in that game," he later tweeted. "Player health and safety was at risk today. It was uncomfortable for anyone who watched."
- Akron Archbishop Hoban athletic director and football coach Tim Tyrell noted Bishop Sycamore had played less than 48 hours before Sunday's game. That's "against any high school rule, but … they're not a high school," he said, per the Dispatch.
- "We regret that this happened," ESPN said in a statement, noting the game had been scheduled by Paragon Marketing Group. "They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward."
- Paragon said it wouldn't work with Bishop Sycamore again, For The Win reports, describing a scam. The site expects legal action to follow, noting most of Bishop Sycamore’s players are postgraduates, some of whom played in Junior College Football.
- In an interview, coach Roy Johnson wasn't very forthcoming about the school but acknowledged its football program and website need work. "We want to do better," he said, per the Dispatch, making a request for outside help. A GoFundMe page with a $20,000 fundraising goal was created Aug. 21 but has since been closed, per CBS Sports.
- Bishop Sycamore—which has been outscored 342-49 since its football program was formed in 2020—may need all the help it can get. It's scheduled to face other powerhouse teams this year, including Texas' Duncanville and Maryland's DeMatha Catholic.
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