Millions of high school football programs have kicked off their season openers over the last few weeks. As many played for the first time in a while, no game faced more controversy surrounding a powerhouse full of D1 commits against a mysterious, unknown program.
IMG Academy is ranked the second-best high school football program in the nation. From their senior class, nine are division 1 commits. Kaytron Allen is a four-star running back recruit and is currently the number one player in the state of Florida based on his position according to MaxPreps; he is committed to Penn State. Another elite player is Jihaad Campbell, a 6’4 linebacker, weighing 220 pounds, and is currently offered by big named schools like Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, and Penn State, according to MaxPreps. But with these big name players comes big name broadcasting.
With the game broadcasted by ESPN, IMG Academy kicked off their season opener on Aug. 29 against Bishop Sycamore. As they won with a crushing score of 58 – 0, speculation about this mysterious school began to rise.
Bishop Sycamore is a “school” founded recently in 2018, originally named Christians of Faith Academy. It is reported that the alleged organization may be guilty of several crimes, like credit card fraud.
The most peculiar fact about Bishop Sycamore is their mysterious background with high school football. Mentioned above, Bishop Sycamore was just founded three years ago with its football team being its only representation to date. The school’s founder, Andre Peterson, claims that he was “There’s nothing that I’ve gotten out of this that would constitute it as a scam because I’m not gaining anything financially from what we’re doing.” Although he accomplished his goal of giving athletes a chance to play, creating a fake school is not the answer, especially when there are so many alternatives; playing for a junior college being the primary one.
Bishop Sycamore has made false accusations surrounding the team, the greatest being part of an actual high school organization. When looking at the records, the address of the alleged team traces back to a home in Columbus, Ohio. Along with this, the “organization” only has one set of jerseys while most high school sports require at least two sets of jerseys.
Bishop Sycamore also lied about how many players are on track to play collegiate football at the division 1 level. Most players are not high school students; they are adults. Not only is this a form of fraud, but also leaves a bad impression on the ethics and morals of high school football. Although these actions are legally and morally wrong, we now know Bishop Sycamore’s idea of playing IMG to get nationally recognized was the right idea.
As many worry about the safety of the players, IMG Academy’s running back Stacy Gage was the opposite. He went on Instagram after the game, claiming, “I needa stop playin with these grown men!” When you are one of two four-star running backs on the same team, fear does not enter the minds of complete athleticism and confidence. In the eyes of IMG’s athletes, grown men do not compare to the intense lifting and training lifestyle that future college athletes live by.
With IMG Academy being a top two program in the nation, many must speculate if top ranked schools also lie about their players like Bishop Sycamore.
One shocking aspect about this scandal is that many parents are getting upset about the players faking their ages to play when they let their own child do the same thing. This incident is only nationally reported since it involves a program lying about its eligibility to play. However, no one mentions the fact that thousands of families hold their child back a year or two to gain an athletic advantage. Who is to say that IMG themselves don’t have athletes held back? Who is to say that all high ranked football programs don’t have players gain a year of maturity and athleticism?
High school football has been gaining popularity over the years. However, many parents will remember the actions from Bishop Sycamore and ultimately question the legitimacy of America’s game. Maybe critics towards Bishop Sycamore should also question themselves if they are representing football appropriately.
Featured Image: Courtesy of myfox28columbus.com