Uncontrollable Preparatory Sports Industry Made Bishop Sycamore Scam Possible | National sports

Now that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has asked his education department to investigate the legitimacy of a Columbus high school football team called Bishop Sycamore and now that ESPN has taken a look at how he decided to To televise a game last weekend that Bishop Sycamore lost 58-0 and now that it has been widely reported to be Bishop Sycamore’s second game in three days and now that Canton, Ohio Police, examines reports that Bishop Sycamore sports officials passed bad checks, it’s time to open the most important investigation of all: within ourselves.

Guess what? We make this scam possible.

There is a reason why this all happened. We marketed and commodified high school sports into a $ 5 billion industry and as a result we instigated the creation of Bishop Sycamores – barnstorming teenage sports teams masquerading as schools – to get a share.

You have learned in recent years that college athletes are being exploited. Well, the good news is that at least it doesn’t shock gamers. Bishop Sycamore recalls that they were indoctrinated to such subjugation from the 10th, 11th and 12th years. Even the ninth grade in some places.

Who knows where it all started? Perhaps with the high cost of a college degree, which parents and guardians think they can get debt free if their athletic son or daughter is good enough to win a sports scholarship. (Or steal one, in the case of actress Lori Loughlin and other guys in Hollywood and big business who have been convicted and jailed for bribing elite college coaches to get their skills admitted. children as bogus sports recruits.)

Perhaps it was with black families who accepted the idea of ​​investing everything in their children’s football or basketball skills development as the price of buying a lottery ticket that could turn into a lucrative and upsetting professional football or basketball contract.

Maybe it’s the taxpayers and private funders who are buying the pride of the school and the city by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in stadium construction like the former owner of the New Saints. Orleans Tom Benson made the Canton Stadium for $ 137 million on his behalf. This is the stadium where Bishop Sycamore lost 58-0 against IMG Academy. IMG, by the way, is a boarding school in Bradenton, Florida that exists to turn teenage athletes into pros.

Maybe that’s because every other team from legitimate academic institutions like DeMatha is ready to sign up to play Bishop Sycamore, no matter how sketchy. The Stags, along with just about every other team on Bishop Sycamore’s 2021 schedule, pulled out last week as the scandal unfolded. My alma mater, Good Counsel, was on a list of school matches looking for great football matches, along with Bishop Sycamore and a host of top schools.

Maybe it was with outlets like Paragon Marketing, the company that hosted the game 58-0 – and the same company that in 2002 sold a high school basketball game to ESPN featuring Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary, with a prodigy named LeBron James.

Maybe it was with ESPN. Period.

“I’m not going to question their character out of hand,” Jay Coakley, professor emeritus of sports sociology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, told me over the phone Thursday, speaking of the men at the center of the controversy. . , former Bishop Sycamore trainer Roy Johnson and co-founder Andre Peterson. Peterson fired Johnson on Tuesday.

“The misperceptions about mobility among the pros and making money and what youngsters need to have to have a backup plan, these things just made it look like exploitation, ”said Coakley, who continues to study the pitfalls of youth sport. . “But if it hadn’t been for that context, this guy wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.”

Here’s the background: our sports fanaticism laid the flawed foundation upon which Bishop Sycamore became the last to erect a fragile store. Patterson High Baltimore’s YouTube basketball sensation in the early 2010s, Aquille Carr aka “The Crimestopper,” ended his high school career at a place called Princeton Day Academy in Beltsville, Maryland. It claimed to be an online school. Police found students sleeping in a building at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Carr’s team have played over 50 games.

Carr never made it to college. He played a little abroad, a little basketball in the minor leagues. The number listed for Princeton Day Academy in Beltsville was not working last week. A GPS photo of his address showed a field covered in foliage and weeds.

Bishop Sycamore seems to be heading towards such an end. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the school was not registered in the state of Ohio for this school year, although it has until the end of September to do so. Last school year, he reported just three students enrolled despite a football team roster. The team went 0-6.

A school like Bishop Sycamore “is essentially seizing an opportunity in a global context that has an operational component,” Coakley said, “and the fact that school districts fail a lot of children especially minorities and children in the areas. low income. Some of the parents think, you know, that I can do as well as these teachers to get my child to read a book. On top of that we have now spent almost two years doing it (teaching) at distance. So it’s not a strange concept to anyone anymore. “

Every major university looking for teenage labor to fill its rosters of income-generating football and basketball players employs academic advisers and tutors, often in separate facilities, to fill the educational gaps that recruits from lousy school systems and broken schools may have suffered.

“So I think this program (Bishop Sycamore) should be viewed not just for the sole reason of condemning the people who started it, but to see it as the canary in the coal mine,” Coakley said. “It’s a program that alerts us to a context that really needs to be reshaped.”

That probably won’t come anytime soon, however. Certainly comedian Kevin Hart and Agent Rich Paul saw more opportunities in the Bishop Sycamore saga. They announced last week that they were cashing it as docuseries.

Kevin B. Blackistone is ESPN panelist and practice professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.