A high school football team is in hot water after playing a game on national TV. On Sunday, ESPN aired a high school football game between IMG Academy from Florida and Bishop Sycamore from Ohio. IMG, the defending national champions, defeated Bishop Sycamore 58-0, but before the game came to an end, the announcers told the people listening and watching is Bishop Sycamore is not the team claiming to be.
The announcers said they were misled by Bishop Sycamore and didn't do enough to verify the caliber of players on the team. Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster," broadcaster Anif Shroff said. "To be frank, a lot of that we could not verify."
ESPN’s commendations WENT IN on Bishop Sycamore 💀 pic.twitter.com/RCJv46gOA3— BuckeyeScoop.com (@kirk_barton) August 29, 2021
According to Awful Announcing, Bishop Sycamore and IMG were playing in the Geico Kickoff Classic, which is booked by Paragon Marketing. ESPN, who has been partners with Paragon, reportedly claimed they notified the marketing company weeks in advance when they couldn't learn anything about the players or the school. And just days before the game, Bishop Sycamore bailed on a conference call with ESPN before providing a fact sheet of information on Sunday, claiming multiple players have major Division I offers.
Another major problem is Bishop Sycamore was playing its second game in three days. "Their roster was very small though – 30-35 players would be my guesstimate," a reporter told Awful Announcing. "And they had a bunch of injuries over the course of the game, which makes sense if they were playing for the second time in three days." Paragon told Awful Announcing that the IMG and Bishop Sycamore verbally agreed to play in March. Bishop Sycamore was recommended by Prep Gridiron Logistics but was not involved in organizing the game.
Sorry. They had no business being in that game today. None. I feel bad for the kids. Player health and safety was at risk today. It was uncomfortable for anyone who watched. https://t.co/Eq39vdywLm— Anish Shroff (@AnishESPN) August 29, 2021
On top of that, Bishop Sycamore might not be a real school. It is not recognized by the Ohio Athletic Association and there's no verification of a physical location practice facilities and roster eligibility. "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," ESPN said in a statement. "They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward."
This is not the first time this happened to Bishop Sycamore. In 2019, the team was set to play Mainland High School from Florida in the Freedom Bowl located in Georgia. The game was called off due to a "breach of contract" as Bishop Sycamore's staff failed to provide a full roster ahead of an Aug. 10 deadline and did not book its hotel accommodations within the 30-day window after signing the contract.