A high school showcase game has sparked a high school sports scandal in one of the most remarkable stories of the year. The “school,” Bishop Sycamore, was scrutinized after a 58-0 loss on ESPN that left announcers appalled and fans bewildered at how and why a team this bad was allowed to compete on national television.
In the wake of those fairly innocuous questions, we’ve been led down a remarkable path that continues to get more bizarre with each passing day. If you’ve been struggling to understand this whole debacle, let’s break it down.
- Roy Johnson, who would eventually become head coach of Bishop Sycamore, starts an online charter school called “Christians of Faith Academy.” The school has an identical goal as Bishop Sycamore would go on to have, helping at-risk youth. After scrutiny by state officials, it was impossible to determine whether classes were actually taking place, and the school’s license was eventually revoked. Johnson was investigated for alleged fraud.
- “YouthBuild Centurions” is foundered in Columbus, Ohio — a rebranding of the Christians of Faith Academy. This was another online charter school with a football team which served as its public face. The school would later rebrand again, this time as “Bishop Sycamore.” A 2020 article by The Independent notes that Bishop Sycamore went 5-6 in its first season against a schedule that only features one Ohio school, adding that the school was not a member of the Ohio State Athletic Association, and has been a “lightning rod” for controversy in the local community.
September 23, 2019
- The YouthBuild Centurions have a match cancelled when a school in West Virginia learns they have numerous players on the roster over the age of 18.
September 4, 2020
- Bishop Sycamore plays its first recorded football game on Max Preps, losing 35-0 to a non-conference opponent.
- Ahead of the game, athletic director Dave Brown speaks to The Independent about his approach to building the team, which curiously notes that he doesn’t want players or coaches to look up information about the team online. “I try to encourage our athletes and our coaching staff to stay off of the internet,” Brown says, a curious concept considering Bishop Sycamore is an online school.
October 16, 2020
- Bishop Sycamore plays IMG Academy for the first time in their season finale. Bishop Sycamore loses 56-6, finishing the 2020 season 0-6, with their closest game being a 37-14 loss. Bishop Sycamore and IMG Academy will meet in less than a year on ESPN.
- Bishop Sycamore spins up its online hype machine through a website which has since been shut down, showing it’s “closed for maintenance.” In it, nothing is mentioned of educational goals, or support for students. Instead the only information available is a series of blog posts detailing upcoming private workouts for college teams, and how the school recommends players create highlight clips to be noticed.
August 19, 2021
- Bishop Sycamore opens its 2021 season with a 38-0 loss to Archbishop Hoban.
August 27, 2021
August 29, 2021
- Bishop Sycamore plays IMG Academy on ESPN. The school is clearly outmatched and unable to keep up. During the game the announce team expresses its disgust at the situation, insinuating the network had been promised the school had numerous football players with D1 athletes, but clearly based on the game they do not. Furthermore there are questions about the safety of the players on the field against the bigger, stronger and more skilled IMG.
ESPN’s commendations WENT IN on Bishop Sycamore pic.twitter.com/RCJv46gOA3— BuckeyeScoop.com (@kirk_barton) August 29, 2021
- People begin digging into the history of Bishop Sycamore, learning not only was there never a Bishop Sycamore as a person — but almost nothing is known about the school. Ben Koo of Awful Announcing leads the charge investigating the school, being the first to point out they played two games in three days. Koo also questioned ESPN over how the school was put on TV, learning they trusted Paragon Marketing Group, a third party company to make the matchup.
August 30, 2021
- As people begin to dig more into Bishop Sycamore, the more suspect the school becomes. It has two listed addresses. One appears to be a house in a residential area, the other is the library at Franklin University in Columbus.
This is the listed address of Bishop Sycamore, the school Duncanville is playing on 9/10. It appears to be a duplex. The other address listed on their MaxPreps accounts lists the Franklin University library building as an address. pic.twitter.com/6Zl0KDRbrO— Texas Football Life (@TXFBLife) August 30, 2021
August 31, 2021
- Bishop Sycamore fire head coach Roy Johnson, who started this ball rolling back in 2018.
- Athletic director Andre Peterson fires back at claims he’s running a “scam,” because, as he tells USA Today Sports “I’m not gaining anything financially from doing this.” It should be noted that as of August 30 there was an active GoFundMe trying to raise $20,000 for Bishop Sycamore, which has since been shut down. It received $140.
- Bishop Sycamore closes its website, saying it’s “down for maintenance.” Archives of past articles are still available via WaybackMachine.
- Schools begin backing out of scheduled games against Bishop Sycamore.