Bishop Sycamore Players Discuss Issues with Roy Johnson, Football Program

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 1, 2021

Shown is a bag of footballs before a preseason NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The saga of Bishop Sycamore High School has continued with two players speaking with Zion Olojede of Complex about the program's allegedly deplorable conditions and atmosphere.

The two players, who remained anonymous, spoke about numerous topics that included broken promises, lies, team fighting, lack of preparation, apartment evictions, poor or no medical assistance and malnourishment when they played for the team in 2020.

They also said that 20- to 21-year-old players were on the high school team, which was led by head coach Roy Johnson, who has since been fired.

"He's a liar. He's a thief. Probably the worst things," Player 2 said of Johnson.

When asked what the worst thing was that Johnson had done, Player 1 said the following:

"I think it's selling false dreams. Like telling your players you're gonna have X, Y, Z, we're gonna fund this and that, and not having any of that provided for your kids. I don't know what program the schooling is with, but not making sure your kids are getting the proper education. It's cool to check in every once in a while to see how your kids are in school. We didn't even start till three months after the fact. So I'd say school, selling false dreams, and funding. I think that's the concept of lying, selling false dreams."

There were far more than broken promises on the list of alleged transgressions, with the food situation among them.

"Worse than prison food. I wouldn't feed it to my dog. I'll tell you this: They'll feed us tuna salad Sunday, then try to put it on a sandwich and give it to us on Wednesday," Player 2 said.

Personal health was a significant issue, especially for Player 1, who said he had to gut through the season hurt:

"One other point I want to touch on: it's important for our safety, right? You should feel like your players are safe. The problem we had was we didn't have any athletic trainers. I got hurt early in the season and I ended up playing hurt the majority of the season because we didn't have any athletic trainers. It was like go outside, go get help with one of the assistant coaches in the pool or something. Even if we were playing back-to-back games, there's no time to recover from those games because we don't have any trainers."

The players also mentioned an incident where an unhoused man allegedly tried to steal Johnson's car. The man was caught in the act, and Johnson allegedly authorized his players to beat the man up.

"Yeah, they ganged up on him," Player 1 said. "I would’ve understood if he handled it himself, but the players were beating on the homeless man. I wasn't a part of it. The whole practice was cancelled because the homeless man got beat up."

Bishop Sycamore received notoriety after losing to IMG Academy 58-0 in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Questions soon emerged about the online-only charter school, including whether ESPN was duped into believing that the school had top-level recruits.

Anish Shroff of ESPN, who called play-by-play, provided these remarks with IMG up 30-0 in the second quarter (h/t Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing):

"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. 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."

Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports did a complete rundown of the situation, including the fact that Bishop Sycamore may not be a school at all:

"The website makes no mention of classes or teachers or alumni or...pretty much anything you might expect from a real high school website.
"Additionally, Bishop Sycamore was not listed as a charter school for 2021-22 by the Ohio Department of Education, according to USA Today Sports. It was listed as a 'non-chartered, non-tax supported school' last year by the Ohio Department of Education. The school chose to be non-chartered due to 'truly held religious beliefs.'"

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Twitter on Tuesday that the state's department of education would "conduct an investigation into Bishop Sycamore to ensure compliance with Ohio law and to ensure the school is providing the educational opportunities Ohio students deserve."