Not a scam, but also not a school
The most puzzling sports story of the past few weeks has been the saga of Bishop Sycamore.
For the uninitiated, Sycamore, which says it is based in Columbus, Ohio, faced powerhouse football factory IMG Academy in a game broadcast on ESPN on Aug. 29 and got blown out 58–0. During the game, ESPN’s Anish Shroff and Tom Luginbill openly questioned the veracity of Sycamore’s claim that it had numerous top recruits on its roster. In the days after the game, the school was exposed as having no physical address, not being registered with the Ohio High School Athletic Association and having a coach who was part of a federal fraud investigation tied to allegations of misconduct at the last school he tried to start. (That coach, Roy Johnson, who also has an active bench warrant for failing to appear in a domestic violence case, was fired shortly after the game.)
There’s definitely something fishy about Bishop Sycamore, but its founder and director insists it’s not a “scam.” Comments made by its new coach are not helping to back up that claim, though. Tyren Jackson, who was hired to succeed Johnson, told NBC4 in Columbus that Sycamore is “not a school.”
“We do not offer curriculum,” he said. “We are 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.”
NBC4 previously reported on the paperwork Jackson is referring to, Sycamore’s filings with the Ohio Department of Education to apply for status as a school. The filings detailed a bell schedule for a school day (beginning at 7:10 a.m. and ending at 3:05 p.m.) and an address Sycamore listed as its school building that was actually the library of Franklin University in Columbus. The university says Sycamore inquired about renting space in the building but never did.
Sycamore was granted school status from the department of education for the 2020–21 school year, classified as a non-charter, non-tax supported school. (NBC4’s reporting explains why that status doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.) Jackson told the station that Sycamore will not reapply to be considered a school for this academic year.
So if Bishop Sycamore isn’t a school, what is it? Jackson calls it a “post-grad football academy.” But all of its remaining opponents on its 2021 football schedule pulled out after the program’s deception came to light. That makes it a “football academy” that isn’t playing any games, which only raises more questions.
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