Updated August 31, 2021 - 4:37 pm
By now you might be aware of Bishop Sycamore, a semi-fictional high school that made news by playing two games in three days last weekend, including one on ESPN. It was caught pulling a fast one in a 58-0 loss to IMG of Florida.
When IMG was piling up points, the ESPN broadcasters acknowledged that its opponent was nowhere near as good as advertised. When other media began to check facts, they learned that, at best, Bishop Sycamore is a loosely organized football team comprised mainly of junior college dropouts masquerading as a high school.
The “school,” said to be located in Columbus, Ohio, exists mostly as a sketchy website. There is no high school building.
It also should be noted that most private schools with a prefix of Bishop are named for clerics and not fig trees.
Rich Muraco, the football coach at Liberty High, said he was unaware of the ruse when the Patriots scheduled Bishop Sycamore to fill an Oct. 15 opening.
On Monday, Muraco said the game had been canceled.
NIAA steps in
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association must approve any game against an out-of-state opponent, Muraco said.
“When they saw that (inquires into Bishop Sycamore’s legitimacy), they did some research to see if they are part of the Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Association, and they weren’t. That automatically canceled the game,” he said.
Muraco said until Monday — he did not watch Sunday’s ESPN game — he assumed Bishop Sycamore was a serviceable opponent that would fill the gap in the Patriots’ schedule.
In 2019, Liberty went 0-5 against national opponents. But the experience transformed the Patriots into a battle-tested group that knocked off mighty Bishop Gorman — named for Thomas Kiely Gorman, the first Catholic bishop of the Reno-Las Vegas diocese — in the state playoffs.
Next week, Liberty will play Mater Dei of Santa Ana, California, the nation’s top-ranked prep team.
“I didn’t think they were a powerhouse team necessarily,” Muraco said of Bishop Sycamore. “Last spring they played some games; they were 0-6. I had an open week, and the guy who helps me schedule national games said there’s this new team out of Ohio, they’re trying to be like IMG, they want to play you guys.”
In addition to being overmatched, it turns out Bishop Sycamore’s coach, who was fired after Sunday’s game, also is a fugitive.
According to Fox News, Leroy (Roy) Johnson faces an active bench warrant for failure to appear in a domestic violence case that was reduced to criminal mischief but remains active in Delaware, Ohio.
Johnson also is facing several lawsuits and will go to trial after defaulting on a $100,000 loan issued to him and former Ohio State football player Jay Richardson.
In a previous incarnation, Bishop Sycamore was known as Christians of Faith Academy. According to legal records, it owes a hotel a balance of $110,685 for rooms in 2018.
“What’s funny is one of our players who is committed to Texas (Anthony Jones) has a friend who plays on that team,” Muraco said. “When we announced we were playing them, he was all excited. He didn’t realize that things weren’t 100 percent legit.”
Nobody did. Or if they did, they weren’t saying. Then the next thing you know, a team with a name conjuring an image of a private high school juggernaut is chosen to play on national TV. And people start asking questions that demand answers.
“I’ve heard about some crazy things in my time, but this is right up there,” Muraco said.
Apparently, ESPN has cut so much staff during its budget crisis that nobody bothered to fact-check Bishop Sycamore. It happens, one supposes. But the next time a representative of Ridgemont High reaches out and says it has a wide receiver named Spicoli who has fast times in the 40-yard dash, I bet it raises an eyebrow.