The Mystery of Bishop Sycamore High School

Jack Torello, Managing Editor

When a high school team possesses 21 year old athletes that need to rob supermarkets to get food, it draws a lot of speculation to the public. Bishop Sycamore High School, (not to be confused with Sycamore High School, Cincinnati, Ohio) is a “high school” football team based out of Columbus, Ohio. They purported to be the high school football team of Bishop Sycamore High School, advertised as an athletic sports training academy. However, after a blowout loss to the IMG Academy that was televised on ESPN on August 29, 2021, there was increased scrutiny and investigation about the school’s existence, along with the identities and credentials of the team’s administration. 

Red flags arose when Roy Johnson, the  head coach, was forced out shortly after the scandal broke. His successors eventually conceded that Bishop Sycamore was not a high school as they had advertised. Johnson was the con artist who convinced students that Bishop Sycamore was “The IMG of The Midwest.” He also told the athletes when recruiting that they would be “practicing at Ohio State facilities.” All of these remarks were obviously lies as the school couldn’t even afford housing units for it’s players. According to former recruit Aaron Boyd, “the apartments housing the students frequently evicted them after Johnson failed to pay rent. Many players already graduated from high school and there were four or five kids that were 20, 21, and had children of their own.” Boyd also noted that a “number of players had legal issues; at one point so many players had active arrest warrants that the team couldn’t fly to away games.” According to Awful Announcing, one player actually joined the team immediately after being released from jail. 

“It’s hilarious that something so obvious went right by companies involved such as ESPN. It’s laughable that a school with almost 0 proof of existence managed to scam one of the biggest sports providers all for a high school football game. I highly doubt that something this outrageous could ever happen again. This was historically stupid,” stated Sam Pontanares, an athlete at San Pasqual High School, who chimed in with his opinion on the matter..

Bishop Sycamore gained national attention when they played high school football powerhouse IMG Academy on August 29, 2021. The game was aired on ESPN as the finale of the 2021 ESPN High School Kickoff series, a weekend of high school football showcases televised by ESPN’s networks featuring prominent teams, nationally ranked prospects, and players that have committed to playing Division I FBS college football. The games were booked by the company Paragon Marketing, which has historically served as a partner for ESPN’s high school events. Paragon was unable to find a team willing to play IMG, so they outsourced their efforts to a man named Joe Maimon, who runs a company called Prep Gridiron Logistics.  Maimon contacted 200 schools to play IMG, and Bishop Sycamore was the only school willing to play against them. The game was expected by many to be a game between two elite programs but was far from competitive. IMG Academy was dominant throughout the entire game, winning 58–0 in their first shutout since 2019.

Following the game, fans and media outlets began to question whether Bishop Sycamore was a real high school. During the 2020–21 school year, the Ohio Department of Education listed Bishop Sycamore as a “non-chartered, non-tax supported school”. The school was not listed at all for the 2021–22 year. The state listed a P.O. box as its mailing address, and its physical address as being a sports training facility in Columbus. The school’s website contained blank “About Us” and “Staff” pages. And to cap off this bizarre money grab, in 2020, the school only claimed an enrollment of three students. It’s not everyday that a fake high school football team comes to be and tricks the entirety of ESPN to be broadcasted on live television just for the money. In the end of it all, Johnson was replaced by Tyren Jackson as the school’s head football coach. In an interview with Columbus TV station WCMH-TV following his hiring, Jackson acknowledged that the organization was not a school and should not have been identified as one.