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Alleged fake high school football team plays on ESPN networks

On Aug. 29, Bishop Sycamore High School played IMG Academy, the No. 2 team in the country, on ESPN, who televised the game nationally. The school’s legitimacy is now in question as reports arrive. 

ESPN, along with their scheduling company Paragon, was told that Bishop Sycamore was the top team in the state of Ohio and could compete with the likes of IMG Academy. It was quickly discovered that this was false. 

IMG won the game 58-0, with Bishop Sycamore completely outmatched. Announcers during the game even questioned player safety due to the difference in physical ability. 

After the game concluded, reports questioning the school’s legitimacy hit the internet. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Bishop Sycamore claims to be out of Columbus, Ohio despite having no official address. On its website, the “about us” and staff directory pages are completely blank. 

Reports from the Columbus Dispatch and other media outlets said the school provided ESPN with fake rosters saying they had kids committed to play college football at big name schools like Alabama and Clemson. ESPN could not find any of these alleged committed players in their recruiting database prior to the game. 

In a statement, ESPN addressed the mistake. 

“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. They have assured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward,” ESPN said.

Paragon President Rashid Ghazi said he wished his company had done more due diligence on Bishop Sycamore. 

Midway through the second quarter, announcer Anish Shroff acknowledged ESPN’s failure to legitimize the roster of Bishop Sycamore. 

“Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster, and to be frank, a lot of that, we could not verify,” Shroff said. “They did not show up in our database.” 

Later after the game concluded, Shroff went to Twitter. 

“Sorry, they had no business being in that game today,” Shroff said. “It was uncomfortable for anyone who watched.” 

It was later reported that Bishop Sycamore played a game two days prior, losing 19-7. Ghazi said if Paragon was aware Bishop Sycamore had played two days prior, they would not have scheduled the game. 

Whether or not Bishop Sycamore is even a school at all is currently in question as reports continue to come in. 

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the State Education Department in Ohio requires non-chartered schools to report their enrollments to their home districts. Columbus City Schools could not locate any reports from Bishop Sycamore. 

Columbus City Schools Spokesperson, Jacqueline Bryant, spoke to the Columbus Dispatch on the issue. 

“There is no school with this name in the Ohio Education Directory System,” Bryant said. Andre Peterson, Bishop Sycamore’s founder, defended his school’s legitimacy when he spoke to the USA Today.

“There’s nothing that I’ve gotten out of this that would constitute it as a scam, because I’m not gaining anything financially from it,” Peterson said. “If it’s a scam and the kids are not going to school and not doing what they’re supposed to do, then I’m literally scamming myself. And most importantly, I’m hurting my own son. So when people say stuff like that … I would literally be taking my son’s future and throwing it in the trash.” 

Information regarding Bishop Sycamore continues to come in. Scheduled opponents are backing out of their game with Bishop Sycamore and head coach, Roy Johnson, was fired on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

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