Football Fans Are Trying to Wrap Their Heads Around the Bishop Sycamore Phenomenon

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Aug. 31 2021, Published 9:14 a.m. ET

Football lovers have taken to question the legitimacy of a Columbus-based high school football team from Bishop Sycamore High after the team was dealt a crushing blow at the hands of IMG Academy during a game held on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Canton, Ohio.

Bishop Sycamore lost the game 58-0. Many are now doubting the eligibility of the football team and ESPN's decision to spotlight the utterly disastrous outing. So, is Bishop Sycamore fake?

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Is the Bishop Sycamore high school football team real?

The lethal defeat on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, drew even more attention to Bishop Sycamore. A failed GoFundMe and coach Roy Johnson's murky past are just some of the details that caught the eyes of amateur sleuths. But can the rumors be substantiated? Is Bishop Sycamore a scam? How fake is the "fake football team"?

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For starters, Bishop Sycamore is not listed on the database maintained by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Consider suspicions substantiated. It is, however, listed on the Texas Christian Athletic League, alongside Texan schools like North Central Texas Academy, Spring Creek Academy, and exactly one other outlier: Grace Baptist Academy from Ocean Springs, Miss. Suspicion level: considerable.

Bishop Sycamore doesn't list crucial details on its website.

Unlike the website of decidedly un-fake high school football programs like IMG Academy, BishopSycamore.org doesn't provide information on the academic curriculum, extracurricular activities, summer programs, staff, or student well-being. Intriguingly, there are no contact details either — which, in most cases, would cause a real headache for prospective and returning students. The "About," "Staff," and "Schedule" sections are blank. Suspicion level: through the roof.

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Bishop Sycamore seems to be an online-only school.

Described as a "lightning-rod of controversy" by the Massillon Independent, Bishop Sycamore appears to discourage its student body from using the internet — even though it seems to be an online-only prep school. Websites like MaxPreps and Buzzfile credit David Brown (aka Dave Brown) as the athletic director. Andre Peterson is thought to be the director; an insider described him in an interview with USA Today as the "funding guy."

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The school was reportedly founded very recently, in 2020. The Ohio Department of Education listed Bishop Sycamore as a "non-chartered, non-tax supported school" in 2020, according to USA Today. It's uncertain if they were listed for 2021 at all.

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The Bishop Sycamore vs. IMG Academy game garnered mixed responses.

Anish Shroff, an ESPN on-air host and play-by-play announcer, responded to the criticism aimed at ESPN and its apparent failure to correctly select teams shortly after the Bishop Sycamore vs. IMG Academy game on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021.

"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," Anish told USA Today. "They did not show up in our database. They did not show up in the databases of other recruiting services."

"So, OK, that's what you're telling us, fine, that's how we take it in," Anish added. "From what we've seen so far, this is not a fair fight, and there's got to be a point where you're worried about health and safety."

"Sorry," Anish tweeted on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. "They had no business being in that game today. None. I feel bad for the kids. Player health and safety was at risk today. It was uncomfortable for anyone who watched."

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