Bishop Sycamore Catfishes High School Football

The sport of football has officially been catfished, and this isn’t a Mante Teo tribute.

This past Sunday, the “school” faced notable IMG Academy in a game as part of ESPN’s weeklong high school football showcase. Touted as a program loaded with Division I talent, the 58–0 blowout quickly confirmed Sycamore was not worthy, and that’s even before the story began to unfold.

In Columbus, Ohio, Bishop Sycamore is not a part of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. The address it provides to recruits is the address for the library of Franklin University.

However, the university did confirm via The Columbus Dispatch that it had previously rented a room to Bishop Sycamore.

Classes are conducted online, and its current status, according to reports, is a “non-chartered, tax-supported” school. However, what is unclear is whether the proper paperwork has been recorded to maintain that status.

Then there are the athletes.

Bishop Sycamore’s roster includes postgraduate players that are collegiate ages as old as 19 or 20. Digging a little deeper and some of them might have played in junior college games, allegedly.

Adding more tinsel to the dumpster fire, Bishop Sycamore’s Head coach Roy Johnson was part of a federal fraud investigation. The local African Methodist Episcopal Church has denied involvement with his previous football-centric school. He also has an active bench warrant for failing to appear in a domestic violence case.

The bench warrant for failure to appear in a domestic violence case, dropped to a criminal mischief charge, was issued July 2 by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. It remains active.

In addition, a Franklin County judge ruled Johnson and Jay Richardson will go to trial for defaulting on a $100,000 loan issued in April 2018 that never was repaid to First Merchants Bank. Richardson is a former Ohio State Buckeye and current Columbus prep sports TV personality.

Johnson’s $100,000 loan issue has been problematic as head coach of Christians of Faith Academy, the precursor to Bishop Sycamore’s football operations. There is also a 2019 civil lawsuit filed by ARN Hospitality, owner of a Delaware, OH-based Baymont Hotel, where according to reports, the head coach housed football players in rooms during the Fall of 2018.

ARN Hospitality says Johnson owes a balance of $110,685.

On Monday, the coach held a Twitter chat, explaining his academic process and confirming that students attend classes online. He also revealed that the school doesn’t have a building or a dedicated practice facility.

The team will even practice on an open parking lot if that’s all they can find, and underage players stay with him while players 18 and older live in scattered locations.

“We rent space a few days a week to go over our classroom stuff class, work stuff,” the coach said. “That’s in the eastern area so you can kind of get us there in a few days a week that we have school. Remember we’re not a traditional school so we don’t have our young men sitting in school from 7:00 AM.”

With just five wins since Johnson evolved from Christians of Faith Academy, the school went 0-6 in 2020, outscored 227-42. This season, through two games, they’ve been outscored 96-0 and face Johnson Central next in Paintsville, Kentucky.

With high school athletics and their football programs being a premium for many school districts and parents nationwide, Bishop Sycamore is testing the limits of credibility for student-athletes and gambling their futures on its premise.

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