Politics

School behind mysterious Ohio football team that played on ESPN is a ‘scam’, officials say



The Ohio Department of Education said Bishop Sycamore High School is “a scam” and was a way for students to play football in hopes of increasing their chances of playing at the college level.

The department detailed its findings in a 41-page report released Friday. It began investigating the school in August at the request of Gov. Mike DeWine after concerns were raised over a blowout football game between Bishop Sycamore’s team and Florida powerhouse IMG Academy.

IMG Academy beat the school 58-0 in a game that was broadcast on ESPN as part of the network’s GEICO ESPN High School Football Kickoff series. During the game, ESPN’s own announcers questioned the matchup and raised concerns about the school’s legitimacy.

Tyren Jackson, who was described as the school’s head coach, previously spoke out about the controversy, telling NBC affiliate WCMH of Columbus that Bishop Sycamore was “not a school.”

“That’s not what Bishop Sycamore is, and I think that’s what the biggest misconception about us was, and that was our fault. Because that was a mistake on paperwork,” he said in September.

But, the Department of Education’s report stated that Bishop Sycamore registered as a private, non-chartered school. The report said the school, however, failed to meet the minimum requirements to operate as such.

The report detailed how investigators found no evidence that the school provided the required coursework for students and “was not open for instruction the requisite hours.” The report also said that the school changed its listed address several times.

At one point, Bishop Sycamore said it was located at 3599 Chiller Lane, which is the location of an indoor sports training facility called Resolute Athletic Complex.

A person at the complex previously told NBC News that the center is not used as a school. Bishop Sycamore later changed its address to the location of a residential home in Blacklick, Ohio, according to the report.

Investigators also said that the school said they were under the Columbus City School District but a district official said they had no record of students attending Bishop Sycamore. The report stated that it could only verify one student as being enrolled at Bishop Sycamore.

“Unfortunately, the facts suggest that Bishop Sycamore High School was and is, in fact, a scam,” the state Department of Education wrote in its report. “To that end, the head coach of Bishop Sycamore football team confirmed what has become apparent to everyone: Bishop Sycamore is not a school.”

“Bishop Sycamore was a way for students to play football against high school teams and potentially increase students’ prospects of playing football at the collegiate level,” the report continued. “Each child in Ohio is entitled to an education of high quality. That includes the children at Bishop Sycamore.”

Gov. DeWine said the allegations against the school are “disturbing.”

“There is no evidence that the ‘school’ enrolled students this year, had a physical location for classes to meet, employed teachers, nor offered any academic program meeting minimum standards,” he said in a statement. “Ohio families should be able to count on the fact that our schools educate students and don’t exist in name only as a vehicle to play high school sports.”

The governor went on to say that he is asking the attorney general to determine whether the school violated any civil or criminal laws.

Jackson and Andre Peterson, who is listed as Bishop Sycamore’s point of contact in Education Department records, could not be reached Saturday at phone numbers listed for them.



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