Football

Mysterious Ohio high school football team’s season appears to be done in wake of state probe

Mysterious Ohio high school football team's season appears to be done in wake of state probe

The season appears to be over for a mysterious prep football team from Ohio after remaining opponents dropped the little-known high school from their schedules, officials said Wednesday.

Bishop Sycamore, out of Columbus, Ohio, was defeated soundly by Florida powerhouse IMG Academy in an ESPN-televised game Sunday, raising immediate questions as to how a school with virtually no credentials could make it to the national stage.

As of Wednesday morning, the national high school sports database MaxPreps listed three remaining games for Bishop Sycamore: Sept. 24 at St. Edward High School of Lakewood, Ohio; Oct. 8 vs. St. Thomas More School of Oakdale, Connecticut; and Oct. 22 against Saint Frances Academy of Baltimore.

In written statements to NBC News on Wednesday, representatives of all three schools said they won’t play Bishop Sycamore.

“Our school did its due diligence about the situation. We gathered all the facts and decided to move forward,” St. Thomas football coach Ernest Anderson said.

St. Edward Athletic Director Kevin Hickman said of his team’s contest vs. Bishop Sycamore: “We have officially removed them from our schedule and are actively looking for a replacement game.”

When Saint Frances Athletic Director Nicholas L. Myles was asked if his school’s date against the Ohio team was still on, he simply replied, “No, it’s not,” and declined to elaborate.

Before Wednesday, prominent programs Duncanville High School of Texas and Johnson Central High School of Paintsville, Kentucky, had dropped scheduled games against Bishop Sycamore.

Fallout from Sunday’s 58-0 IMG win over Bishop Sycamore, in a game played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, reached the desk of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who on Tuesday ordered state investigators to probe the mysterious Columbus program.

Education Department records cite Andre Peterson as Bishop Sycamore’s point of contact, and he could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

It appears Bishop Sycamore also played Friday, meaning the team had multiple contests in 72 hours — an act virtually unheard of at any level of football. Bishop Sycamore’s opponent Friday was Sto-Rox High School, a prominent prep football program from western Pennsylvania.

Sto-Rox coach LaRoi Johnson said he had been told Bishop Sycamore was fielding two different sets of players. But when Johnson turned on television Sunday, he recognized many of the same players from just 48 hours earlier.

“I wouldn’t do that for my kids. We were told they had two teams,” Johnson told NBC News on Wednesday.

The controversy has shed light on the world of elite high school football and those few teams that will travel out of state for games.

Despite Bishop Sycamore’s thin résumé, it wasn’t hard for the program to get scheduled alongside some of prep football’s biggest names.

“The coaches at these elite programs struggle to find nonconference games, for teams to come to them,” Ghazi said. “You’re talking about football coaches and athletic directors who are not lawyers. They’re not doing a lot of due diligence.”

Ghazi added: “They need to play 11 bodies, so people call them and say, ‘Here’s who we are,’ and they say, ‘Great, we’ll play them.’

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