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NFL Hall of Famer and Good Morning America host Michael Strahan is heading back to the gridiron — to delve into one of the most puzzling sports stories of recent years.
Strahan and Constance Schwartz-Morini’s SMAC Entertainment will produce a documentary about the tangled mess surrounding the Bishop Sycamore high school football program. The team was thrust into an unflattering national spotlight two weeks ago when ESPN televised a game between Bishop Sycamore — a Columbus, Ohio, “school” with no fixed address or class schedule, and IMG Academy, a powerhouse, sports-focused prep school owned by Endeavor.
SMAC Entertainment has secured exclusive rights and access to former Bishop Sycamore coach Roy Johnson for TV and film projects. Johnson was fired in the fallout from the nationally televised game — in part because he did a poor job tracking players’ injuries, school director Andre Preston told several media outlets — and has an outstanding warrant on fraud charges.
“To secure the rights to Roy’s story as the head coach of the Bishop Sycamore High School football team that has gone viral and made national headlines is incredible, especially as it plays out in real time,” said Schwartz-Morini, who founded SMAC Entertainment with Strahan. “When our head of unscripted, Ethan Lewis, brought this story to Michael and my attention, we knew we could tell it with the gravitas, authenticity and journalistic integrity that it deserves.”
During the Sycamore-IMG Academy game on Aug. 29, ESPN’s 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 outside criticism mounted, ESPN noted that it had contracted with a third party, Paragon Marketing, to produce the game and other high school matchups it televises. Scrutiny also focused on Bishop Sycamore itself, with sports media site Awful Announcing uncovering that the team was playing its second game in three days and noting, among other things, that the program isn’t recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Several schools that had scheduled Bishop Sycamore — which has only existed under that name since 2018; a previous iteration was known as Christians of Faith Academy — subsequently canceled games. Earlier this week, Bishop Sycamore’s new coach, Tyren Jackson, 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.”
SMAC Entertainment will partner with Boat Rocker’s Matador Content on the documentary, while SMAC Productions will also develop a scripted project based on the story. The documentary is the second such project to be announced: Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Productions, Complex Networks, Klutch Originals and Haven Entertainment are teaming to produce a docuseries about Bishop Sycamore.
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