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ESPN Duped By Seemingly Fake High School

Bishop Sycamore, who played IMG Academy on ESPN over the weekend, has found itself in a slew of controversy over its legitimacy.

MIchael Quirk

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If you watched this weekend’s nationally televised high school football matchup between IMG Academy and Bishop Sycamore, you likely knew a lot about one of the teams. IMG boasts a collection of athletic facilities that put quite a number of universities to shame. They continually put double-digit (yes, double-digit) recruits into Power Five football programs every year. They’re the gold standard of prep talent in the country.

The best competition in the country, however, does not include their last opponent, Bishop Sycamore. If you have not heard of Bishop Sycamore, then you are like 99.999 percent of everyone else before this weekend. They were brought to ESPN by Paragon, who was informed by the “school” they had a dozen D1-caliber football players. Turns out, that was not remotely the case, as discussed at-length on Twitter and further in-depth by Awful Announcing. ESPN even mentioned in the second quarter that they couldn’t even verify the roster or seemingly anything else about IMG’s opponent.

The world of high school and college football is no stranger to hoaxes, from kids holding fake signing ceremonies to schools they did not hold offers to prank callers acting as coaches offering recruits to the infamous Manti Te’o saga which has elicited thousands of jokes on Twitter with the Bishop Sycamore news. This one may take the cake, however.

Addresses for the school were found to be either a duplex home or a local library. The team had limited jerseys and helmets, putting out a GoFundMe to raise $20,000 but raised just $200. No one was able to verify the roster, which according to an ex-player’s parent has former junior college players on it. Maybe the most-damning piece is the team already played on the weekend, meaning its minimal roster of 30 or so players play twice in a matter of three days.

Many on Twitter and across the sports media landscape have cast aspersions toward the program and rightfully so. The charade puts a black eye on both ESPN and Paragon, who have obviously come out to say they will not work with that team anymore. More importantly, it put players’ health and safety at risk as they were not only overworked on the field with two games in three days, but were severely outmatched.

It appears the only legitimate part of Bishop Sycamore is their abbreviation.

On the bright side for ESPN though, the network has found a perfect subject for a multi-part 30 for 30 or perhaps an E:60 investigation.

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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