Ray Holtzclaw first heard from Roy Johnson when his son, Judah, was a sophomore at Westerville Central in 2018.
Johnson, at the time running a program called COF Academy, was interested in Judah becoming COF’s starting quarterback. But the Holtzclaws were happy with things at Westerville Central, so the conversations didn’t progress.
After COF Academy fell apart, Johnson turned his attention to a new program in the same mold — Bishop Sycamore. Alongside Andre Peterson, the duo continued working on their model for a football program.
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That model was exposed on ESPN Sunday afternoon, as Bishop Sycamore lost 58-0 to IMG Academy in a game that prompted a national conversation about Bishop Sycamore’s legitimacy and raised questions about how the team came to be highlighted on ESPN. During the game, ESPN commentator Anish Shroff admitted that ESPN had been unable to verify Bishop Sycamore’s claims that they have multiple Division I prospects on the roster, and he and others on air said they worried for the safety of the overmatched players from Columbus.
Since the beginning of the 2020 season, Bishop Sycamore, which is not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, hasn’t won a game and has been outscored 342-49. The team has largely been unnoticed until now, and the reaction has been swift. Already, a game against DeMatha (Hyattsville, Maryland) Catholic High School, previously scheduled for Oct. 1, has been canceled.
ESPN also said it was unaware that Bishop Sycamore had played a game on Friday night, as it is unheard of for a team at any level to play two games in 48 hours.
Bishop Sycamore chaos doesn’t surprise Holtzclaws
There are also questions about Bishop Sycamore as a school. It is not yet registered with the Ohio Department of Education for the 2021-22 school year, though it has until Sept. 30 to do so. And the address on record for last year is the address of Resolute Athletic Training near Easton Town Center. Records show Bishop Sycamore was registered as a non-chartered, non-tax supported school — not the charter school it says it is.
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None of this chaos surprises the Holtzclaws.
In Judah’s senior year, with hopes of him playing in college, the Holtzclaws decided he should take a gap year after graduation and play for a prep school to enhance his football opportunities.
“I remembered (COF Academy) and looked them up and they were Bishop Sycamore,” Ray Holtzclaw told The Dispatch. “I called and talked to them and they were like, ‘We’re a totally new program now and things are good’ and all this stuff. We were like, well, you’re local, so instead of us trying to find somewhere, Judah can live at home and