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ESPN Loses Legitimacy by Putting Dubious Football Program in National Spotlight

Did the self-described “worldwide leader in sports” get duped into airing a football game between one of
the top high school football squads in the nation and an online academy with a dubious pedigree, a head coach with an active warrant and several players that may not have been eligible to play in the game?

Bishop Sycamore head coach Roy Johnson was fired Tuesday. 
Well, there’s no disputing the fact that defending high school national champion IMG Academy — a perennial gridiron powerhouse from Florida — faced off with Ohio-based school Bishop Sycamore Sunday in the Geico High School Football Kickoff on ESPN, beating the cleats off the Centurions, 58-0. 

The game, which was supposed to put two of the nation’s best teams on national display, was such a mismatch that the network’s own announcers began to question the legitimacy of Bishop Sycamore during the broadcast.

Shortly following the game other details began to emerge that put the whole affair in question. It was discovered that the contest was the team’s second in three days, putting player safety into question. Then it was reported that the school was 0-6 last year and didn’t seem to exist prior to last season.

By Tuesday things had really gone off the rails. Bishop Sycamore head coach Roy Johnson was fired for “a lot of things,” school director Andre Peterson told Chris Bumbaca of USA Today. One of which was the fact that he has an active bench warrant for failure to appear in a domestic violence case, which was eventually dropped to a criminal mischief charge, issued July 2 by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. He is also facing a pending fraud charge for defaulting on a $100,000 loan issued in April 2018 that was never repaid to First Merchants Bank, and a 2019 civil lawsuit filed by ARN Hospitality, says Johnson owes a balance of $110,685 to the group which owns a hotel he is alleged to have housed players at for a night in 2018. 

Add to that the fact that several players, parents and other associates of the team brought some pretty damming stories to light in the aftermath of the contest, it sure seems like ESPN should have been wary of ever approving the squad to be spotlighted on the national stage.

For its part, the network tried to take the focus for the black off itself, issuing a statement Monday that threw Paragon Marketing Group — responsible for arranging the schedule for the Geico event — under the bus:

 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.

Whether or not that was enough to convince the world, that a network that prides itself on getting the facts and getting them first and employs hundreds of reporters across various mediums couldn’t figure out something it took less than a half for its own announcers to see remains to be seen. 

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