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In September, Strahan and Constance Schwartz-Morini’s SMAC Entertainment secured exclusive rights and access to the story of Roy Johnson, the former coach of the Bishop Sycamore program to produce a documentary about the Ohio program — which is a more fitting descriptor than “school,” as Bishop Sycamore had no fixed address, class schedule or accreditation in the state.
Adam McKay’s Hyperobject Industries, which has an overall deal at HBO, and sports publication The Athletic have also boarded the documentary as producers along with SMAC Entertainment and Boat Rocker’s Matador Content. The documentary, set for a 2022 premiere, will explore two questions: What exactly is Bishop Sycamore, and who in the world is Roy Johnson?
Bishop Sycamore was put in an unflattering spotlight in late August when ESPN televised a game between the team and IMG Academy, a powerhouse, sports-focused prep school owned by Endeavor.
During the game, ESPN announcers, Anish Shroff and Tom Luginbill, discussed the lopsided nature of the matchup (IMG won 58-0) and expressed concern for the safety of the clearly outmatched Bishop Sycamore players. “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,” Shroff said during the telecast.
As criticism of the matchup and telecast spread, ESPN noted that it had contracted with a third party, Paragon Marketing, to produce the game and other high school matchups it televises. Sports media site Awful Announcing reported that Bishop Sycamore was playing its second game in three days and also noted that the program isn’t recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Johnson was fired in the fallout from the ESPN game — partly because he did a poor job tracking players’ injuries, Bishop Sycamore director Andre Preston told several media outlets — and has an outstanding warrant on fraud charges. Other schools that were scheduled to play Bishop Sycamore subsequently canceled, ending the team’s season.
Tyren Jackson, who was hired to replace Johnson as coach, later told NBC 4 in Columbus, “We are not a school. That’s not what Bishop Sycamore is, and I think that’s what the biggest misconception about us was, and that was our fault. Because that was a mistake on paperwork.” Jackson instead called the program a “post-grad football academy.”
The story will be the subject of at least two documentary projects. In addition to the HBO film, Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Productions, Complex Networks, Klutch Originals and Haven Entertainment are teaming to produce a docuseries about Bishop Sycamore.
The HBO documentary is executive produced by McKay and Todd Schulman for Hyperobject Industries; Strahan, Schwartz-Morini and Ethan Lewis for SMAC Entertainment; Jay Peterson, Todd Lubin and Jack Turner for Matador Content; Alex Mather and Ankur Chawla for The Athletic; and Spencer Paysinger for Moore Street Productions.
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