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ABC 6 investigates 'Bishop Sycamore;' Columbus team that lost big on ESPN

Bishop Sycamore during Sunday's game against IMG Academy. (ABC){ }
Bishop Sycamore during Sunday's game against IMG Academy. (ABC)
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This weekend, ESPN aired a high school football match-up with Florida powerhouse IMG Academy and Bishop Sycamore from Columbus.

The score: IMG 58 -Bishop Sycamore 0.

The game is sparking national headlines and a slew of other questions, like "Is Bishop Sycamore even a school at all?"

A quick search online doesn't lead to much that's concrete about the school.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association said Bishop Sycamore isn't a member. Schools must compete in at least two sports per season and be able to fill certain responsibilities.

Online it lists the team as part of the Texas Christian Athletic League. No one there got back to ABC6/FOX28.

ABC6/FOX28 started checking out a list of addresses that show up online tied to Bishop Sycamore.

But that's the problem, the people at each said they aren't connected at all.

On Franklin University's campus, a principal renting a space there said they have zero connection.

Next up: a school in the Milo Grogan area said they have no affiliation.

An attorney for the school said Bishop Sycamore had reached out in the past about potentially getting education services, but they didn't move forward.

Now, we're told the school has been sending cease and desist letters, spending two years fighting what they describe as a non-connection.

The Ohio Secretary of State's listing for the group took us to another address on the far east side, which is where a young person who answered the door said there was no affiliation and similar complaints.

What do education records show?

The state said Bishop Sycamore is listed as a non-chartered, non-tax-supported school.

The physical address listed on those records is for Resolute Athletic Center near Easton. The team there said they aren't affiliated and that Bishop rents space for athletic purposes at times, not education.

"To put a blow out like that on not even ESPN 2 or on a third-party network, this was on ESPN, this was disappointing and probably very embarrassing for a lot of parties involved," said Ben Buchanan, a sports industry faculty member at The Ohio State University.

Buchanan, with The Football Fever, teaches sports ethics courses.

The game, he said, leads to not just to ethical concerns, but safety worries too, like putting these players up against IMG.

"They are certainly well known...(with) this new school, we heard that there were going to be some recruits that were going to college, that there were some top prospects. But, that is where the vetting process has to come in," Buchanan said.

Was vetting done? ESPN provided the following statement:

We regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling. They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.

ABC6/FOX28 also talked to a spokesperson for Paragon on the phone. We're told they plan to review rosters closer to game time as well, particularly for independent schools where the rosters can be more fluid.

The spokesperson said vetting was done, including looking at Bishop Sycamore's schedule which features some big-time matchups, saying they will boost vetting efforts further.

That spokesperson also said with powerhouses like IMG, big scoring gaps often happen.

"It is a known product. This new school I think people were quick to trust and maybe this is an example where we are going to see there needs to be future vetting in the process," Buchanan said.

The twists don't end there.

There was an hours-long "interview" on Twitter with Bishop's coach Roy Johson and group leader Andre Peterson taking questions.

While there wasn't much clarity, there was a lot of heated emotion.

The coach said they work to help young people in the community and wanted his players to get a chance to get playing time that he says could help them get offers.

Did they dupe anyone? The coach and team leaders said they didn't perform their best, but want to compete.

As for the education kids are getting, the coach said they aren't affiliated with a local school, but plan to offer online schooling.

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ABC6/FOX28 reached out to that online source who said they don't have an official partnership but said students can register online.

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