By Carmen Caserio ’22
On the afternoon of Sunday, August 29, 2021, the highly touted IMG Academy high school football team faced off against Ohio’s own Bishop Sycamore on ESPN. Despite hopes for an even match, IMG Academy embarrassed the Ohio-based school with a score of 58-0. As a result, suspicions have ensued regarding the true reality existence of Bishop Sycamore.
According to ESPN, the school’s founder Andre Peterson claims “the school has an academic component, despite not being listed as a charter school by the Ohio Department of Education.” However, in a recent article posted by USA Today, Bishop Sycamore’s new coach explains that “‘We are not a school.’” Moreover, The Guardian reveals that “one of Bishop Sycamore’s listed addresses turned out to be a college library. Another was a training facility with no classrooms.” Consequently, the school’s existence seems, at the very least, in question. In addition, Sports Illustrated highlights that “The Sycamore roster includes postgraduate players who are as old as 19 or 20,” adding insult to injury regarding the truth behind Bishop Sycamore’s football team.
While a multitude of articles discuss Bishop Sycamore’s rise to national attention, a variety of student reactions to the controversy provide a greater glimpse into what this issue looks like from the perspective of “fellow” high schoolers.
When asked about his thoughts on the recent events, one Ignatius student said, “It sickens me… I don’t see how faking high school is going to get you anywhere.” He went further to criticize Bishop Sycamore’s mentality in emphasizing, “If you can make the team for a school that doesn’t exist, how will you make the team for an actual college.” Similarly, a proud cross country runner exclaimed, “That was crazy!” He stressed that “That would never happen on the cross country team.” Finally, he called out the controversy in the first place, saying, “I am very disappointed in the OHSAA.” For the record, OHSAA never officially recognized the team. On a different note, Jeffrey Calkins said, “It’s funny,” looking at the entire issue from a more jovial standpoint. Lastly, one student mocked the school’s losing record, saying, “Imagine being a bunch of twenty year olds and losing to high schoolers.”
When brought to the attention of our own Athletic Director, Mr. Rory Fitzpatrick expressed a similar reaction, though, in a more tempered and informed manner. Mr. Fitzpatrick explained that in years past when the Saint Ignatius football team faced off against Bishop Sycamore, he could tell that they were “not a traditional school” and typically were not as organized as other schools. Moreover, Mr. Fitzpatrick emphasized that “The fact that they are playing with older kids is a problem,” expressing concern about player safety. He concluded given the new evidence that “it would be difficult for them to ever find another game to play.”
Evidently, the series of events that have precipitated following the blowout on Sunday, August 29, 2021 have served to shed more light on the true existence of Bishop Sycamore. At this point, all we can do is wait to hear more information as the Ohio Department of Education continues its efforts to understand the reality behind the high school.
As a quick side note, I would like to thank all of those who contributed their thoughts to this article, especially Mr. Fitzpatrick and Jeffrey Calkins.