How a Fake High School Scammed Sports’ Largest Network

Andrew DiIorio, Contributing Writer

IMG Academy is one of the most prestigious athletically focused boarding schools in the country. They produce tons of eventual professional athletes, competing in leagues such as the NBA and NFL. With the rise of social media and online presence at an early age, these young athletes begin to make a name for themselves much earlier than in past generations. This causes large networks such as ESPN to air some of their games against reputable competition, hoping to highlight some of the brightest prospects on the field before they even get to college.

This was the case on a Sunday afternoon in Canton, Ohio, as IMG faced off against Bishop Sycamore. Billed as a matchup between two star-studded rosters, filled with future Division I athletes, ESPN was set to have a great showcase. 

Here’s the catch – Bishop Sycamore isn’t a real school. Their football team was much less athletic than advertised, with most of their players being in their mid-twenties. This, of course, led to a 58-0 romping in the favor of IMG, with the referees having to incorporate a running clock in the second half to get the game to end quicker.

During the game, both ESPN announcers and viewers at home noticed the horrendous play from Bishop Sycamore, looking completely outmatched in what was said to be a great matchup of two of the best high school football programs in the nation. This led to questions being raised about the Ohio squad, prompting users on Twitter to research the school.

After just a little bit of digging, it was discovered that the team played its last game on Friday, just two days earlier! For reference, high school teams will generally play one game every week, looking out for the safety of the teenagers – they would never play two games in one weekend. Now if someone wanted to attend the school for traditional academic purposes, they would need an address, right?

Wrong. Well, you do need an address, but Bishop Sycamore doesn’t exactly have one. There are two addresses associated with the school, one being a residential home, and the other being a library. Obviously, this is a huge sign that something fishy is going on here, especially considering their incomptent and foolish play on the field. The Head Coach of the football team, Roy Johnson, was fired after the team’s loss on Sunday. A main reason for this was the fraud charge that the ‘school’ became aware of after it was uncovered on social media. Yes, he had an active arrest warrant out for him while he was coaching his football team on ESPN.

I mean, how does something like this even happen? More importantly, how does the largest sports media company in the country fall for it? After all of this got out, schools began backing out of their scheduled games against Sycamore, looking for alternate opponents to fill out their schedules.

 They then chose to hire a new head coach, Tyren Jackson, who took a much different approach when he was first interviewed by the media: 

“We do not offer a curriculum. We are not a school.”

Clearly, once their scam was uncovered, the school was forced to take a different approach – advertise the program as a ‘post-grad football academy,’ as Jackson puts it. Considering they lost 58-0, they still have a long way to go to put their name on the map as a reputable program for high school graduates to have a career in football.

So, what can we take away from this? First, expect to hear much more of this story in the coming years, as multiple documentaries on the topic have already been announced, including one by former football star Michael Strahan. More importantly, it seems to be incredibly easy to scam your way onto the national sports landscape. If this entire situation wasn’t as hilarious and interesting as it was, ESPN would face much more backlash for their mishap. In fact, I think we have to thank them for giving Bishop Sycamore the opportunity to be exposed.

With that being said, does anyone want to start a post-Clark football academy?