Questions linger after Bishop Sycamore high school football game controversy

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(AP Photo/LM Otero, file)

COLUMBUS (WCMH/WJW) — The strange saga of Bishop Sycamore, the high school football program whose legitimacy has been called into question since a blowout loss Sunday on ESPN, took another bizarre turn Tuesday.

USA Today reported that coach Roy Johnson has been fired by Andre Peterson, Bishop Sycamore’s founder, director and offensive and defensive line coach. Johnson’s last game was a 58-0 loss to IMG Academy of Bradenton, Florida, in Canton, Ohio.

Multiple media outlets have been exploring how Bishop Sycamore came to be on ESPN, and the network expressed regret over airing the game but placed the blame with a scheduling agency.

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 ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.

ESPN

IMG Academy ranks as one of the top football programs in the country, No. 2 in the country according to MaxPreps, so a blowout win is not unheard of for the talented Florida-based team.

But when the highly touted matchup on ESPN’s main channel turned into a rout, announcers began to question whether Bishop Sycamore had any place playing in the game.

“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,” commentator Anish Shroff said. “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. 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.”

ESPN claims Bishop Sycamore also widely exaggerated the number of highly recruited players it claimed to have when the game was scheduled by Paragon Marketing Group.

Paragon president, Rashid Ghazi, released a statement to FOX 8, saying:

“In regard to the IMG vs. Bishop Sycamore game, we were misled about Bishop Sycamore’s roster.  On the Paragon end the vetting process should have been much more thorough in the weeks leading up to the game.  We have helped place over 700 high school sporting contests on the ESPN Networks without a similar incident since 2002.  Moving forward, in regards to independent non-traditional schools without an established track record, we will enhance our vetting process.  Additionally, Paragon was not informed and had no prior knowledge that Bishop Sycamore players may have participated in a contest on 8/27.  If we were aware of that game being played, we would have immediately cancelled the broadcast and event on 8/29.”

Johnson took to Twitter Spaces on Monday saying about 15 players played in both games, adding most played only small portions. But game footage from Bishop Sycamore’s matchups on Friday and Sunday, reviewed by Awful Announcing, shows players took more snaps than Johnson indicated

Bishop Sycamore is not recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) lists no charter school by the name of Bishop Sycamore.

This is a developing story.

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