ESPN got tricked into airing football game for fake high school?
An extremely bizarre situation unfolded on Sunday when ESPN aired a lopsided high school football game between national powerhouse IMG Academy and some other program called Bishop Sycamore. The end result was ugly, to say the least.
ESPN aired several high school football games over the weekend as part of its “GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff” event. The last game pitted defending national champion IMG Academy (Fla.) against Bishop Sycamore, a program that claims to be from Columbus, Ohio. Many viewers understandably had never heard of Bishop Sycamore, and even Google couldn’t teach them much about the school.
As Zach Barnett of FootballScoop.com discovered, Bishop Sycamore appears to be some sort of online-only charter school. Its website looks like a poorly run blog, with no new entries since May 21. Bishop Sycamore’s football team went 0-6 last year, and there’s no record of it having existed prior to that.
So how did this happen?
It sounds as though ESPN and its scheduling partners were simply swindled by Bishop Sycamore. During the broadcast, announcers Anish Shroff and Tom Luginbill revealed that Bishop Sycamore claimed to have a lot of Division I prospects on their roster. In the clip below, Shroff admitted that the network could not verify the presence of top college prospects on the team. Shroff and Luginbill expressed concern for the health and safety of Bishop Sycamore players.
ESPN’s commendations WENT IN on Bishop Sycamore pic.twitter.com/RCJv46gOA3
— Kirk Barton (@kirk_barton) August 29, 2021
Bishop Sycamore lost to IMG in a 58-0 throttling. What’s worse is that the game was the program’s second in three days, as they also lost 19-7 to Sto-Rox of McKees Rocks, Pa., on Friday night.
Spoke to President of Paragon Marketing Group, Rashid Ghazi, whose company scheduled the game. Said he would have cancelled the game if they knew that a team had played on Friday.
We reviewed Friday's film, and it seems like players played both games. Update coming soon
— Ben Koo (@bkoo) August 30, 2021
Obviously, ESPN and its partners did not do their homework. There’s no way a “school” like Bishop Sycamore should be able to talk its way into a spot like that in the internet era. Some very simple research would have shown that they had no business playing in the game.