It was during the first half of Sunday’s 58-0 drubbing that IMG Academy’s football team laid onto Bishop Sycamore that the exposure of the latter team manifested onto a national stage.
It began with ESPN announcers Anish Shroff and Tom Luginbill implying on the air that the game they were witnessing was nothing more than a farce. The two critiqued the performance of Sycamore, disputed the team’s claims that they featured multiple Division I recruits, and questioned themselves as to how they were duped into broadcasting such a mismatch.
When the game and its aftermath began to go viral, however, more began to look into how such a squad was able to get itself onto a national stage with one of the country’s top prep football programs.
The team claimed to have multiple Division I recruits, but sites like Rivals.com did not provide such information. The team had multiple players on its roster, but MaxPreps only provided the team’s record and no official roster. The team claimed to be based out of Columbus, but records claim no such evidence of a physical school. Even the school’s website – which has since been taken down “for maintenance” at the time of this publishing – only featured a few videos and one picture of a generic football player.
Its website tabs labeled “Staff” and “About Us” were both blank.
The strangest factor? The team had been active against multiple large football programs for a reported number of years.
Indeed, Bishop Sycamore’s 2020 schedule listing on MaxPreps – the first and only season besides 2021 to be shown on the team’s page – details the team going 0-6 in the COVID-stricken season, losing to such Ohio-based schools as Massillon Washington (35-0), Cleveland St. Ignatius (33-6), Lakewood St. Edward (35-8), Warren Harding (37-14), and, yes, Florida-based IMG Academy (56-6). This season, Sycamore already lost against Akron Archbishop Hoban on Aug. 19 (38-0) and to Sto-Rox (PA) on Aug. 27 (19-7).
Just two days after their loss to Sto-Rox came the infamous game against IMG.
Since then, head coach Roy Johnson has been fired, at least one of Sycamore’s games has been canceled (Duncanville on Sept. 15, DeMatha on Oct. 1, Liberty on Oct. 15) and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has called for an official investigation into the program.
Even the city of Canton, which hosted the eponymous Sycamore-IMG game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, is cracking down on the program, which has been accused of stiffing a Canton hotel where it stayed prior to the Sunday contest.
Canton Police Lt. Dennis Garren confirmed Wednesday that hotel management reported the team stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Canton South, 4025 Greentree Ave. SW, on Friday and Saturday, renting 25 rooms. According to police reports, the hotel reported two invalid checks which totaled $3,596. Garren said they were written on an account listed to Education Resources Group of New York, New York.
The hotel also reportedly charged room cleaning fees at $250 apiece for three rooms.
No one has been officially been charged, but Garren said detectives are investigating and they have listed two suspects. Police reports indicate the investigation involves “passing bad checks” or forgery.