Bishop Sycamore saga serves important recruiting lesson for Michigan, others

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 22: Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines speaks during the Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 22: Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines speaks during the Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

What Michigan football and other programs can learn about the sage with Bishop Sycamore when it comes to recruiting.

Where do we begin?

There have been a plethora of extravagant stories throughout the long and competitive world of college football recruiting.

From the years of Southern Methodist handing out suitcases of cash and Trans-Ams to top recruits, to the in-state war between Ole Miss and Mississippi State that was featured on for a five-star linebacker, to Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh sleeping over at players’ houses.

The list goes on.

In the underbelly of recruiting comes shady transactions, stepping over boundaries, manipulation, and succumbing to one’s own egotistical self. As long as the money is available and talent continues to soar with each new recruiting class, the ways of playing dirty will continue.

Even today with cheating getting tougher thanks to fewer heads turning the other way, as seen with Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost, some things still seem to slip through the cracks.

And what happened on Sunday during a nationally televised game between prep powerhouse IMG Academy and Bishop Sycamore is yet another example of supposed trust being broken.

When reading more on Bishop Sycamore, this story might be the craziest high school football story yet. That’s despite everything that we know about past instances of dishonesty.

So let’s break this down accordingly.

Bishop Sycamore played a game Sunday against arguably the nation’s top high school football program in the finale of the Geico Kickoff. The series of seven games was televised across the ESPN networks with the aforementioned being featured last.

No surprises really due to the sheer number of Division I recruits on both sides of the ball
for IMG Academy. The program’s top player in the 247 Sports Composite for the 2022 class is four-star cornerback and Clemson commit Daylen Everette.

But how did Bishop Sycamore manage to convince the largest sports media conglomerate in the United States that they were on par with IMG Academy?

Easy, a whole lot of deceiving.

A month before the Geico Kickoff was set to begin, ESPN themselves issued a press release reveling in the dexterity of Bishop Sycamore.

"“Bishop Sycamore is a new program with young talent and several players on both sides of the ball have multiple Division 1 offers including QB Trillian Harris and OL Justin Daniel.”"

On the surface, it looks to be an ideal matchup. IMG Academy is a country-wide phenomenon and Bishop Sycamore is roughly two hours from where the game was held at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

But if high school football fans were wanting to learn more about the team based in Columbus and went to their website, that’s where the unknown begins.

According to CBS Sports, the school’s official blog had two different subheadings left blank in the “About Us” and “Staff” sections. The “Schedule” subheading only had the words “Coming Soon” in it.

Now, the school’s website has had everything wiped off of it.

The complexity of not having a website at the moment stems from this week’s onslaught from the national media on the legitimacy of Bishop Sycamore. It began when their presumed talent lost 58-0 to IMG Academy in a lopsided and rather uncomfortable contest.

A decision that had IMG Academy literally dancing afterward.

Digging through the lies Bishop Sycamores exaggerated to get on ESPN, it was revealed that they’re not listed in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s directory, even though in 2020 they played five games against other Ohio high schools.

Oh, and Bishop Sycamores played IMG Academy last season too, falling 56-6, having outscored 227-42 throughout the 0-6 campaign.

Not exactly a program worthy of national television.

Sunday’s game against the No. 2 ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps, was also the second of two games played in three days by Bishop Sycamore.

Decisions like that can get high school football head coaches fired on the spot. But that’s not what got Bishop Sycamore’s play-caller a pink slip.

FOX News would write that Leroy Johnson has an active bench warrant out for his arrest for a domestic violence case that was dropped to criminal mischief on July 2.

Johnson faces several civil lawsuits as well for defaulting on a $100,000 loan and failing to make payments on stays at the Baymont Hotel in Delaware, Ohio, among others that are due for court.

And one of the players mentioned in the ESPN press release, quarterback Trillian Harris, has had questions arisen about his football credentials too.

Harris’ profile on HUDL claims that he’s a part of the 2022 class. But according to 247Sports, Harris is from Mission Viejo, California, and graduated high school in 2021. Harris earned one Division I offer from Nevada.

To top things off, the physical address listed by Bishop Sycamore at 3599 Chiller Lane is the same address as the Resolute Athletic Complex, an indoor sports facility in Columbus. This finding was first reported by The Courier-Journal.

The series of mishaps garnered enough national attention that Ohio governor Mike DeWine had to chime in on Twitter.

The impact that this outlandish series of events has on Michigan football is indirect, serving as a cautionary tale for themselves and the rest of college football.

Do the homework. Study up on the research. Actually know just who exactly is being offered and are they as talented as they say they are.

Build strong relationships with coaches and staff. Find out their background and history of building talent ready for the next level. If Bishop Sycamore didn’t play that nationally televised game, who knows how long the charade would have lasted.

Bishop Sycamore told enough lies to the point where someone believed them. ESPN got embarrassed but the Wolverines don’t have to be if they take the right steps to avoid controversy in their recruiting efforts.