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Illinois football recruit competes in ESPN game against controversial school

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Controversial game

IMG Academy wide receiver and Illinois recruit Shawn Miller competed in a controversial game Sunday that was aired by ESPN.

IMG Academy, one of the top prep football programs in the country, opened its season with a 58-0 win over Ohio-based Bishop Sycamore on Sunday. The game was aired on ESPN and billed as a matchup between two teams with multiple Division I prospects.

However, while IMG Academy upheld its end of the bargain with several highly-touted athletes taking the field, including senior wide receiver and Illinois recruit Shawn Miller, the same can't be said for Bishop Sycamore, a program swirling with controversy.

It's beenย reported by FootballScoop and others that Bishop Sycamore actually duped ESPN into believing it has several Division I prospects. As the game unfolded, and with the result never in question as IMG Academy essentially put together a highlight reel, ESPN announcer Anish Shroff openly questioned the legitimacy of Bishop Sycamore and the information his company received about its players.

"Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster," Shroff said during the broadcast. โ€œTo 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. ...ย  From what weโ€™ve seen so far, this is not a fair fight."

The game was set up by Paragon Marketing Group. According to the company's website, it "works with ESPN programming to select the top regular season (high school) football and basketball games in the country, typically airing around 25 games annually."

Moreover, the game actually turned out to be Bishop Sycamore's second in three days, according to TribLive's Chris Harlan. In addition to Sunday's loss to IMG Academy in Ohio, the team competed Friday in Pennsylvania, losing 19-7 to Sto-Rox.

Bishop Sycamore is not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

ESPN admitted Monday that it did not do its due diligence in vetting the program.

โ€œWe regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling," ESPN said in statement. "They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.โ€

Miller scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against Bishop Sycamore to give IMG Academy a 37-0 lead heading into halftime. According to 247Sports' composite ranking, Miller is a three-star prospect, the No. 66 receiver nationally, the No. 71 overall player in Florida and the No. 496 overall prospect in the country for the Class of 2022.

He verbally committed to Illinois in July, choosing the Illini over scholarship offers from Arizona, Indiana, Michigan State and West Virginia, among others.

Miller transferred from perennial powerhouse Saguaro High School in Arizona to IMG Academy last year "to compete at the highest level," per a statement he released via Twitter.

An opponent like Bishop Sycamore is clearly not what he had in mind.

Complex Sports interviewed a former Bishop Sycamore player, Aaron Boyd, who claims that the school and program are fake. He said he hardly practiced at Bishop Sycamore and the program used players that were "grown men."

"Everybody that knows me, already knows this," Boyd said. "It's just the fact now it's on a greater scale, I have to say something. I got friends to this day who are way older than me. Mind you, when I was there I was 15, everybody else there was 19 and 20."

Boyd played for Bishop Sycamore, formerly Christians of Faith Academy, as a junior in 2018 before returning to a traditional high school for his senior year.

"We didn't go to school. We never went to school," Boyd said. "I can't lie, they tried once. They took us to a community library. One day. It was already October, the season was about to be over. It was like at this point, 'Well (expletive), I'm not going to school. Y'all haven't put me through school this whole time.'"


Follow James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid

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