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The Student News Site of Agua Fria High School

OwlFeed

The Student News Site of Agua Fria High School

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The High School That Wasn’t: Revisiting the Bishop Sycamore Scandal

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On August 21st, 2021, a high school football game took place between IMG Academy and a strange team emerging from Ohio known as Bishop Sycamore. The game was nationally televised on ESPN for the entire sports world to catch sight of. The final score ended with IMG putting up 58 to Bishop Sycamore’s 0. Due to how uncompetitive the nature of the game was, ESPN broadcasters, as well as fans and spectators alike, were left wondering just how this peculiar team ended up on the top sports network in the world. How did they slither their way into playing the #1 high school in the country? The story of Bishop Sycamore goes much deeper than playing their way onto national television.

So how does such a bizarre idea come into fruition? Who concludes running a fake high school? Meet Leroy Johnson, founder and head coach of Bishop Sycamore. Surprisingly, Johnson has a football background of his own that dates back to the late 90’s. Roy served as an intern for the New York Jets, being able to be surrounded by huge names in the business such as Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. Johnson was so inspired by these figures he was adjacent to, that he had aspirations of becoming a head coach or general manager someday, leading his franchise to glory. It was Roy’s time with the Jets that blossomed the initial thought of starting Bishop Sycamore.

Fast-forwarding to 2018, Roy Johnson founded Christians Of Faith Academy (C.O.F), an online religious charter school based in Ohio. However, the branding of Christians of Faith lasted only a season, as the program became under investigation for crimes such as credit and debit card fraud, using fake currency, and computer fraud, just to name a few. Christians of Faith was ultimately shut down and later rebranded to what we know now as Bishop Sycamore. Roy Johnson advertised his “brand new” football program to players as a bridge school for at-risk students to improve their lives through education, as well as selling them on the dream that they would receive D1 college scholarships and eventually play in the NFL. To these kids, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. But little were they aware that the entire ordeal was more like the school’s initials… BS.

Roy Johnson made do with the cards that he was dealt, and he played the right hand. You see, Johnson only advertised his program to kids coming from broken homes. These kids had unstable living conditions, no father figures, and uncertain futures. 

Johnson sold these kids on something completely untrue. The actual Bishop Sycamore campus was only a sports facility in Columbus, Ohio. Students of the Bishop Sycamore program attended a community high school called YouthBuild which was the only actual education offered throughout the program. But even the education aspect of Johnson’s scandal was short-lived, as YouthBuild decided to part ways with the program, sending a cease-and-desist letter to Bishop Sycamore, confirming that the two organizations are in no way affiliated with each other. The reason brows were raised in the first place was due to the concern that YouthBuild would be housing players over 18 or had otherwise been no longer eligible to play high school sports. Quite literally all of Bishop Sycamore’s students’ ages ranged from 18 to 23. The program was sold to these kids as a second chance after high school, meaning that most of these “students” had already graduated years prior. So in all reality, students of Bishop Sycamore weren’t actually “students”.

Johnson continued to keep the charade up for a while, but that’s not to say it didn’t come back to bite him in the rear end, as Roy continued to dig himself deeper into a financial debacle. This can date back to the school’s initial rebranding in 2019. Upon hearing that it would cost $150 Million to build the actual school, as well as launch a football program, Roy formulated an insurance scheme to get the ball rolling. 

He paid for hotels in unpaid loans and even wrote checks in some of the players’ names. Roy barely had enough money to purchase food for the team. He even recalls a time when he called into a local grocery store and placed an order for 25 rotisserie chickens for pickup. Johnson never went to pick up the chickens and instead waited until the store was about to close, where he would then buy them for 2 dollars apiece. Roy Johnson was such a shady individual, and some players even reported that Johnson would sometimes brag about his scams, or as he phrased it, “hustles”.

So this leads us back to the initial question, how did a team of 18-23-year-olds led by a con man make it to national television to play the #1 high school in the country? Well, Johnson was able to swindle ESPN into giving them the spot against IMG Academy. Roy told them he had several D1 prospects, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Players from Bishop Sycamore were completely unaware of the lies going on behind the scenes and proceeded to train for what was the biggest game of their lives. These kids genuinely were under the impression that they had the opportunity to take their careers to the next level, and with a win against the top school in America, their dreams could have easily become reality. But unfortunately, their dreams stayed dreams, and they eventually became a laughingstock of the sports world. A player claimed at halftime that his phone was being bombarded with hateful tweets, calling the player and his team a complete joke, and opening their eyes to the whole fake school scandal.

So where does this leave us today? Unfortunately, a lot of Bishop Sycamore’s players have wasted so much time, money, blood, sweat, and tears throughout their time with the program. Student’s lost thousands of dollars funding a scandal. They lost the passion to continue to play football. The entire ordeal left them sick to their stomachs, and it’s such a shame how Roy Johnson would do this to kids. Johnson currently still lives as a free man and stated in an interview with HBO that Bishop Sycamore is not dead, and he will continue with his ventures. Leroy Johnson currently owes more than $300,000 to Christians of Faith Academy/ Bishop Sycamore.

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About the Contributor
Anthony Mimoso, Sports Editor
Anthony Mimoso is a returning journalism student here at Agua Fria High School. Anthony is one of the Sports Reporters and the Sports Editor. He is now a senior, 18 years old, and finishing his last year of high school, already having his future career(s) somewhat planned. When I asked him about his future and what he wanted to do he said, “ I want to be a journalist or do music theory”, when I asked him why, he explained that it was because he has always enjoyed both of those so either would make him happy. He went on further to say that it was always interesting and he feels like he could succeed in either one of those careers. His having his future planned out early is what he said was his greatest accomplishment and what he’s most proud of himself for. Most of Anthony's favorite hobbies have to do with sports. When I asked him if he had done any sports in the past, he said he did football for his freshman and sophomore years but did not continue the next year(s) because he wanted to continue focusing on his grades in school and just school in general so he can be successful in the future. I asked Anthony if he likes Arizona and if he was born in Arizona and he stated that he is not originally from here. When I asked him where he was born he told me he was originally from San Diego, California but moved here in 2015 when he was only ten years old. Later on in the interview, I wanted to know how Anthony thinks other people see him so I asked him how he thinks his family would describe him and his answer was,” I think they would probably describe me as funny and willing to do things.” I then went on to ask him how he would describe himself and he said, “ Outgoing, and extroverted at times if I feel comfortable with you, but mostly reserved”. I also brought up inspirations and asked him who his biggest inspiration in his life is and he said his mom. I asked him why and he said she's his biggest inspiration because she’s gone through so much in her life and still tries to be her best self for him and now she pushes him to be his best self and continue to pursue his dreams.

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