Several opponents of Bishop Sycamore have backed out of scheduled high school football games against the program, and more may be following.
St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) High School was scheduled to play Bishop Sycamore on Sept. 24 and is now looking for other teams to play on that date. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Maryland) Catholic High School canceled its game, which had been scheduled for Oct. 1 at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland.
Johnson Central (Paintsville, Kentucky) High School — which was scheduled to play Bishop Sycamore on Friday — announced that it has cancelled its game and is seeking an alternate opponent.
Duncanville (Texas) also announced that it would be pulling out of its Sept. 10 game against Bishop Sycamore and would be looking for another team to play.
“Student safety is our top priority and I can’t ask our student athletes to take the field next week without knowing more about who they will be facing,” Duncanville ISD Athletic Director Dwight Weaver said Tuesday in a statement. “Our school district’s core values speak to honesty, integrity, ethics and providing a safe environment for students. This situation calls into question many of those values, so we are canceling this game.”
Duncanville said in its statement that it tried contact Bishop Sycamore but that it couldn't reach a representative.
Bishop Sycamore's 58-0 blowout loss against IMG Academy of Florida on Sunday night aired on ESPN, prompting questions about the program, which claims to be based in Columbus, Ohio.
“We have been doing a lot of researching, and after discussing it with our coaching staff, we have decided to cancel that game with Bishop Sycamore because they have ineligible players and it would be a liability issue,” DeMatha Catholic High School president Fr. James R. Day told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “We think this is the right decision.”
St. Edward coach Tom Lombardo said that because the Ohio High School Athletic Association does not sanction Bishop Sycamore as an opponent, playing the team does not factor into the computer rankings or playoff rankings.
“It’s a glorified scrimmage, really, for the teams who are willing to play them,” Lombardo told USA TODAY Sports.
He said St. Edward has had difficulty scheduling opponents, especially local ones, so the school is always looking for non-conference teams to play. Making matters more complicated for St. Edward is that the game was supposed to be a celebration.
“It was supposed to be our homecoming week, so we’d like to find another game,” Lombardo said. “We have reached out to other opponents, but now it's just a matter of finding one. If we can’t, we’re not sure what we’re going to do.
"We may just take the bye week. They may not even be around by Week 6, so it leaves us in a very tough spot. It’s just far enough away that we have some time.”
Midway through the second quarter of Sunday's game against IMG Academy, as Bishop Sycamore trailed 30-0, commentator Anish Shroff acknowledged that ESPN hadn't found evidence to support Bishop Sycamore's claims that it brought a roster laden with Division I talent.
“Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster, and to be frank, a lot of that, we could not verify,” Shroff said. “They did not show up in our database, they did not show up in the databases of other recruiting services. So, OK, that’s what you’re telling us, fine, that’s how we take it in. From what we’ve seen so far, this is not a fair fight, and there’s got to be a point where you’re worried about health and safety.”
DeMatha athletic director Ed King, football coach Bill McGregor and the rest of the school’s athletic administrators are now scrambling to see if they can find an opponent to fill that date.
“It is frustrating,” McGregor told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s time-consuming. My focus right now was on our game this weekend, and that focus has been distracted."
Bishop Sycamore landed on DeMatha’s 2021 schedule because it had been set to play during the 2020 season. The matchup never took place then because the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of many non-conference high school games last fall.
When DeMatha was looking to fill its schedule for this fall, the school reached out to the officials at Bishop Sycamore. And when both programs indicated they had the Oct. 1 date open, they decided to schedule the game.
“This is high school football,” McGregor said. “You just assume that everyone is following the same high school federation rules and you agree to go play somebody.”
St. Edward played Bishop Sycamore last season in a 35-8 St. Edward victory.
According to a schedule posted on MaxPreps.com, Bishop Sycamore's other future opponents are St. Thomas More (Oakdale, Connecticut) School, St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland) and Life Christian Academy (South Chesterfield, Virginia).
Messages left with those schools have not been immediately returned.
“Those are just things that are out of our control," Bishop Sycamore's founder, director and current coach of the football team's offensive and defensive lines, Andre Peterson, told USA TODAY Sports. “I hate it for the kids, obviously. But the only thing we can do is play who wants to play us and just kind of go from there.”
Contributing: Chris Bumbaca; Bailey Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bishop Sycamore opponents are backing out of scheduled football games