Bishop Sycamore, the high school football team that mysteriously found itself mismatched with a national powerhouse on ESPN last Sunday, has fired its coach as four opponents canceled upcoming games amid questions over the non-chartered, non-tax supported school.
The four traditionally strong teams that backed out of meetings with Bishop Sycamore include DeMatha Catholic (Maryland), Duncanville (Texas), Liberty (Nevada), and Johnson Central (Kentucky), according to various reporters. DeMatha Catholic president James R. Day told USA Today the decision was made because ‘they have ineligible players and it would be a liability issue.’
Duncanville Athletic Director Dwight Weaver said Tuesday in a statement that ‘safety is our top priority.’
Head coach Roy Johnson was fired on Tuesday, according to USA Today.
Bishop Sycamore was scheduled to play several top high teams across the US this season, but after concerns over player safety were raised by ESPN announcers during Sunday’s 58-0 loss to defending champion IMG Academy (Florida), the online school’s credentials are now under heavy scrutiny.
Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday he asked the Ohio Department of Education to investigate whether the school complies with minimum standards under Ohio law and provides ‘the educational opportunities Ohio students deserve.’
In a required report filed with the state last year, Bishop Sycamore admitted having just three enrolled students learning in a blended model of ‘online and traditional learning,’ and its address was listed as a library at a university in downtown Columbus that now says it didn’t actually end up renting space to the school, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
One anonymous school source told The Columbus Dispatch that once a month, or so, a football team-sized group of around 30 students use an athletic complex listed in connection with the school. However, no classes are located at the site.
IMG Academy (white), a national powerhouse, and Bishop Sycamore (black), which exists only online, somehow found themselves matched up against each other on ESPN on Sunday. Bishop Sycamore has since fired its coach as four opponents canceled upcoming games amid questions over the online school’s legitimacy
Head coach Roy Johnson (with the headset around his neck) has since been fired
Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday he asked the Ohio Department of Education to investigate whether the school complies with minimum standards under Ohio law and provides ‘the educational opportunities Ohio students deserve’
ESPN announcers openly worried about player safety during the obvious mismatch. At one point, Bishop Sycamore’s No. 54 apparently suffered an injury. ESPN attempted to identify the player, but there was no No. 54 on the roster provided to the broadcasters
ESPN announcer Anish Shroff did not pull any punches after watching Sunday’s mismatch
Bishop Sycamore’s website contains no contact information, nor does it offer any background about the online school, its history, its staff, or its student body.
As a ‘non-charter, non-tax-supported school,’ state rules could allow Bishop Sycamore to bypass normal systems of operation ‘because of truly held religious beliefs,’ but it hasn’t reported its enrollment to the local public district as the state requires for such schools, and it hasn’t filed a report with the education department for this year, the Dispatch reported.
A previous DailyMail.com article incorrectly listed Bishop Sycamore as a charter school. However, it does not qualify as a charter school because it has not been approved for a charter in Ohio or any other state, online or otherwise, a spokesperson for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools told DailyMail.com.
The report submitted to the department last year was signed by founder Andre Peterson, who coaches the team’s offensive and defensive line and is a father of one of the players, the newspaper said.
In comments to USA TODAY Sports, Peterson said the team’s coach had been fired after Sunday’s blowout, and denied that there was any ‘scam’ to the game or the school, saying Bishop Sycamore helps players hoping to compete in college.
‘There’s nothing that I’ve gotten out of this that would constitute it as a scam because I’m not gaining anything financially from what we’re doing. The reality of it is that I have a son (Javan) that’s also in the program and has been in the program for four years,’ he said.
‘If it’s a scam and the kids are not going to school and not doing what they’re supposed to do, then I’m literally scamming myself. And most importantly, I’m hurting my own son. So when people say stuff like that … I would literally be taking my son’s future and throwing it in the trash.’
Sunday’s game, played at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, was meant to be a showcase of two teams with elite college prospects. Instead, Bishop Sycamore was quickly exposed by bigger and faster IMG players en route to a 58-0 loss.
What’s worse, it was later revealed that Sunday’s defeat was Bishop Sycamore’s second game in three days – an obvious safety concern given the quick turnaround.
Akron Archbishop Hoban football coach Tim Tyrell is familiar with Bishop Sycamore and told USA Today that playing two games in three days is ‘against any high school rule,’ adding, ‘they’re not a high school.’
Bishop Sycamore football coach Leroy (Roy) Johnson told USA Today that the school operates out of the athletic complex ‘a few days a week.’ Johnson went on to say that Bishop Sycamore’s 2021-22 enrollment begins Wednesday, and the education will be handled through another online school, Excel
‘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 has since released a statement expressing ‘regret’ over Sunday’s game, while specifying that the matchup was arranged by Paragon Marketing Group.
Rashid Ghazi, the president of Paragon, claimed in a statement provided to DailyMail.com that the marketing firm was misled.
‘In regard to the IMG vs. Bishop Sycamore game, we were misled about Bishop Sycamore’s roster,’ Ghazi said. ‘On the Paragon end the vetting process should have been much more thorough in the weeks leading up to the game.
‘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.’
The network has a long history with Paragon, which claims to have secured the rights for ESPN to broadcast one of LeBron James’s high school games back in 2002.
According to Awful Announcing, Bishop Sycamore officials allegedly backed out of a conference call with ESPN after the network voiced concerns about its roster.
Sunday’s football game quickly drew national scrutiny when one third-quarter clip went viral.
ESPN announcer Anish Shroff did not pull any punches after watching Sunday’s mismatch
‘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,’ Shroff told the ESPN audience.
‘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.’
No major injuries from the game have been reported, although ESPN announcers openly worried about player safety during the obvious mismatch.
At one point, Bishop Sycamore’s No. 54 apparently suffered an injury and was tended to by trainers on the field. ESPN attempted to identify the player, but the roster provided to the broadcasters did not contain any No. 54.
Johnson faces a warrant in Ohio for failing to appear in court for a domestic violence case that was eventually reduced to a criminal mischief charge, according to court documents obtained by Outkick.com.
Outkick.com also reported that Johnson is set to face trial after he and his partners defaulted on a $100,000 loan.
Sunday’s game, played near the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, was meant to be a showcase of two teams with elite college prospects. Instead, Bishop Sycamore was quickly exposed by bigger and faster IMG players en route to a 58-0 loss. What’s worse, it was later revealed that Sunday’s defeat was Bishop Sycamore’s second game in three days – an obvious safety concern given the quick turnaround
Concerns over the school and the program are nothing new.
Ray Holtzclaw, the father of former Bishop Sycamore quarterback Judah Holtzclaw, told Awful Announcing that the school immediately gave him cause for concern, such as a lack of equipment, uniforms, and any preparation.
‘They assured me everything would be taken care of, and then we were supposed to start playing football for them in the Spring,’ said Holtzclaw, whose son has since converted to tight end and now plays at Youngstown State. ‘They had a schedule they put out.
‘About two, maybe three weeks before the game was scheduled to play, I said ”Where is the rest of the team and where are the uniforms? Where’s all the stuff?”
‘They were like ”Well, the first game may get cancelled because of COVID’… it was a Canadian team from across the border. Whatever.
‘So I said, ”Even if things haven’t gone according to game schedule, we aren’t ready. We don’t have uniforms, we don’t have all this stuff.”’
Holtzclaw said Johnson promised that the equipment was on its way, but issues persisted.
‘There was another game that was supposed to be scheduled to play,’ he continued. ‘Again, it was the same story. Spring of this year, spring 2021. I said, ”Look, Judah is not playing in any games until we have at least a couple weeks of practice before getting on the field, and I don’t care who it is.” We kinda left it at that.’
Tyrell also said he had some similar problems after trying to schedule a game with Bishop Sycamore.
‘The week of the game it was a little bit — some things were a little bit off-putting, not having rosters, not having who was actually playing, that type of stuff,’ Tyrell told USA Today. ‘But during the game, we didn’t have any issues, other than a jersey issue. They didn’t have their [light] jerseys so they had to go in the dark jersey.’
Tyrell also said he was told by some parents that the Bishop Sycamore players were too old, but he was assured by school spokesman Andre Peterson that was not the case.
‘I trusted him and we got through the game without any incident,’ Tyrell said.