Ohio-based high school football team Bishop Sycamore faces questions about legitimacy

Two days after an Ohio-based high school football team met national powerhouse IMG Academy in a prep football mismatch on Sunday on ESPN, questions continue to be raised about how the game was scheduled and whether the school even exists.

ESPN and Paragon, the company that works to schedule and deliver high school matchups to ESPN, both said they were unaware that Bishop Sycamore had apparently played a game on Friday night, and didn't have the number of highly recruited prospects it claimed to have when the game was scheduled.

IMG won the game 58-0, and the ESPN broadcasters quickly noted the mismatch and commented on it throughout the game, citing player safety. They also said they became suspicious when information about the team and its players, including rosters, were hard to come by.

In a statement, ESPN said: "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."

Paragon president Rashid Ghazi told Awful Announcing that if he had known Bishop Sycamore had played a game on Friday, he would have canceled the Sunday game against IMG.

A Paragon spokesman told The Columbus Dispatch that a roster it received a month prior to the game was different than the one for Sunday's game. The spokesman added that the company is likely going to need to check rosters more carefully in the days leading up to a game. The Dispatch reported that the company currently looks at coaching staffs, cross-checks rosters with recruiting rankings and looks at schedules from the current and previous season.

Bishop Sycamore coach Roy Johnson, speaking on Twitter Spaces, said about 15 players played in both games, though he said most played only small amounts.

Tuesday, USA Today reported that Johnson had been let go as head coach on Sunday by Andre Peterson, a former Youngstown State player who founded and directs the school. He termed it "mutual" and said that Johnson speaking on Monday was OK because "we hadn't put anything out."

Peterson told USA Today that the school has an academic component, despite not being listed as a charter school by the Ohio Department of Education.

Tuesday afternoon, Ohio governor Mike DeWine tweeted that he was "concerned by the recent reports and questions raised about Bishop Sycamore" and said he's asked the state education department to make sure the school was in compliance with Ohio law and "to ensure the school is providing the educational opportunities Ohio students deserve."

Bishop Sycamore played six games last season, going 0-6. It has been outscored 342-49 since starting its program in 2020. The school is scheduled to play several national prep powerhouses this year, including Duncanville (Texas), St. Edward (Ohio) and DeMatha Catholic (Maryland), according to the Dispatch.

The school's physical address is listed as a recreation center in Columbus. According to the Dispatch, the Ohio Department of Education doesn't list a charter school under the name Bishop Sycamore, but did last year as a "non-chartered, non-tax supported school."

In an interview with the Dispatch, Johnson said his program is young and growing, and that "we want to do better," the newspaper reported.