January 28, 2022

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Bad checks, Christians of Faith, opponents backing out: What we know about Bishop Sycamore

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Bishop Sycamore: What really happened with the prep football team

SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Chris Bumbaca takes a closer look at Bishop Sycamore and what led the mysterious prep football team to play on ESPN.

Sports Pulse

The story of Bishop Sycamore, the Ohio institution that claims to be a high school despite having no physical address and has scheduled football games against powerhouses across the country, continues to evolve.

Largely unknown outside of Ohio, Bishop Sycamore went viral after it scheduled a game against No. 2 team in the country according to MaxPreps.com, IMG Academy. The game was televised on ESPN. Bishop Sycamore lost the game, 58-0, which was later revealed to be its second game in three days.

Bishop Sycamore claims to be based in Columbus, Ohio though there’s no address listed on the website, and the “About Us” and “Staff” pages on the site are blank. 

Here’s what we know about the mystery surrounding Bishop Sycamore:

What’s the latest with Bishop Sycamore, and what is the Christians of Faith Academy?

The craziest part of the Bishop Sycamore story isn’t that a possibly fictitious school sprouted up in Columbus, Ohio, and started scheduling football games against a string of powerhouse programs around the country.

It’s that this had already been done before — and by many of the same people.

Just three years ago, a school called Christians of Faith (COF) Academy was created in Columbus under dubious circumstances, with a football team serving as its lone public face. The school did not appear to have a legitimate physical address. It’s unclear what schooling actually took place. And it was run by a similar cast of characters who have been involved with Bishop Sycamore — including Roy Johnson, who went on to become the head football coach at the current school before he was fired earlier this week.

What are the administrators of Bishop Sycamore saying?

Andre Peterson, who played for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State in the 1980s, is Bishop Sycamore’s founder, director and currently coaches the football team’s offensive and defensive lines. 

Peterson defended Bishop Sycamore’s purpose of giving players a better chance of playing college football and denied any inkling of a “scam” related to Sunday’s game or Bishop Sycamore.  

“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,” Peterson told USA TODAY Sports on Monday night. “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.”

What happened to the coach of Bishop Sycamore?

Bishop Sycamore coach Roy Johnson has been let go, Peterson told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.

Peterson said the decision to move on from Johnson was made Sunday night, after the game against IMG. However, he did not publicize the news until having another conversation with Johnson earlier Tuesday.

Yet as the Bishop Sycamore controversy spiraled Monday, Johnson represented the school as its head coach in an interview on Twitter Spaces hosted by Michael Robinson. Peterson was OK with this.

“We hadn’t put anything out,” he reasoned. “So yeah, I was OK with it.”

One reason behind Johnson’s removal was the poor job of tracking the team’s injuries, Peterson said.

What about the other teams scheduled to play Bishop Sycamore later this year?

Several opponents of Bishop Sycamore have backed out of scheduled high school football games against the program, and more may be following.

St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) High School was scheduled to play Bishop Sycamore on Sept. 24 and is now looking for other teams to play on that date. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Maryland) Catholic High School canceled its game, which had been scheduled for Oct. 1 at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland.

Johnson Central (Paintsville, Kentucky) High School — which was scheduled to play Bishop Sycamore on Friday — announced that it has cancelled its game and is seeking an alternate opponent.

Duncanville (Texas) also announced that it would be pulling out of its Sept. 10 game against Bishop Sycamore and would be looking for another team to play.

What happened during the Bishop Sycamore-IMG Academy game on ESPN?

ESPN’s commentators even questioned on the broadcast whether they had been deceived by Bishop Sycamore about the quality of its team when the game was scheduled and openly expressed concerns over the health and safety of the players.

In light of the highly-publicized game, Bishop Sycamore faced harsh criticism all over social media.

What else is there to know about Bishop Sycamore?

The institution is now accused of stiffing the Canton hotel where it stayed for its nationally televised GEICO ESPN High School Football Kickoff game.

Canton Police Lt. Dennis Garren confirmed Wednesday that hotel management reported the team stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Canton South on Friday and Saturday, renting 25 rooms.

According to police reports, the hotel reported two invalid checks totaling $3,596. Garren said they were written on an account listed to Education Resources Group of New York, New York.

Also, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked for an investigation to be opened to look into the how Bishop Sycamore got started.

“While this weekend’s football game brought concerns about the health and safety of players, it also raised red flags about the school’s operations,” DeWine said Tuesday in a statement.

And finally, one family said Bishop Sycamore football program didn’t live up to promises and that “There was always an excuse.”

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