As high school football season begins across the country, play among elite high school programs has begun with a focus on the bizarre circumstances of Bishop Sycamore, a mysterious program whose major red flags concerning its legitimacy came to light following a 58-0 blowout loss to IMG Academy of Florida in a nationally televised game on Sunday. And to add to those red flags, the checks the team has allegedly filed are now bouncing.
According to a report by Lori Steineck of The (Canton, Ohio) Repository, a Canton, Ohio hotel has accused Bishop Sycamore of writing two bad checks worth $3,596. The team stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Canton South last Friday and Saturday, renting 25 rooms while also incurring cleaning fees of $250 apiece for three rooms.
While no one has been charged, authorities have listed two suspects, with their investigation concerning the practice of “passing bad checks” or forgery. The alleged checks were written on an account listed to Education Resources Group of New York.
The circumstances of Bishop Sycamore offer a look into the underbelly of the football recruiting industry, as suspicions have been raised that the program is not all that it seems. While Bishop Sycamore had earned a place on ESPN through claims that its football program boasted Division I-level talent, it was revealed on their game’s broadcast by commentator Anish Shroff that the network could not verify the school’s claims. While presenting themselves as an online charter school based in Columbus, Ohio, the school’s bare-bones website — which has since been taken down — did not list an address or staff.
While school founder Andre Peterson — a former player for Youngstown State — has denied allegations that the program is a scam, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has ordered the state’s Department of Education to conduct an investigation into Bishop Sycamore.
“While this weekend’s football game brought concerns about the health and safety of players, it also raised red flags about the school’s operations,” read a Twitter thread by DeWine’s staff. “Schools like Bishop Sycamore have an obligation under Ohio law to meet certain minimum standards. Whether Bishop Sycamore meets these standards is not clear.”
The ongoing situation with Bishop Sycamore highlights the issue of recruiting scams in high school sports and college athletics. Tips to avoid such scams are offered by the Better Business Bureau and other resources.