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ESPN Duped into Airing HS Game with Suspect Team

Brock Fritz

ESPN’s announcers didn’t know what to make of the high school football game they called on Sunday, as IMG Academy notched a 58-0 win against a Bishop Sycamore team that has little information about its existence.

According to Football Scoop, Bishop Sycamore not only didn’t have the credentials to play a high-profile game on ESPN, but it also apparently played twice in three days, also suffering a 19-7 loss to Sto-Rox (Pa.) on Friday night.

There appears to be a couple football-related Bishop Sycamore Twitter pages, but Football Scoop’s Zach Barnett pointed out that the school’s website is solely focused on football, with the “About Us” section blank and the last post going online in May. Barnett also found that entering the address associated with the school on Google Earth navigates to an office park.

The school’s football team has existed for three years, according to a September 2020 story in The Independent, which said Bishop Sycamore went 5-6 in 2019.They went 0-6 last year, according to MaxPreps. While the school says it’s based in Columbus, Ohio, the 2021 schedule includes no local games, with trips to Kentucky, Texas, Florida, Maryland, Connecticut, Nevada and Virginia remaining.

ESPN announcers Anish Shroff and Tom Luginbill were aware of some of the inconsistencies during the game, with Shroff saying on air, "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. They did not show up in our database, they did not show up in the databases of other recruiting services. OK, if 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 far fight, and there’s got to be a point now where you do worry about health and safety.”

Sunday’s game was part of ESPN’s Geico High School Football Kickoff, which was arranged by Paragon Marketing Group.

The Independent article said that Bishop Sycamore had been “a lightning-rod of controversy in the Columbus area and beyond. The school itself is an online-only charter school, with the non-OHSAA-affiliated football program serving as its most public face.”

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