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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

NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.

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Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.

ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.

At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.

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Sports TV News

AFC Championship Game Delivers New Viewership High For CBS

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI.

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The AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals drew a massive audience for CBS.

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs’ controversial victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, the event is the most-watched NFL Conference Championship Game since 2017.

CBS claims the game peaked with 59.3 million viewers and was also the most-streamed live sporting event in the history of Paramount+.

With an audience of 53.1 million, CBS concludes its NFL playoff coverage averaging 40.798 million viewers for each game. That leads all networks thus far. The 2022 NFL season was the most-watched regular season on CBS in the past seven seasons.

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Sports TV News

Michael Cole to Pat McAfee: I Didn’t Know If We’d See You In WWE Again

“If you noticed I haven’t said much to anyone publicly about when you were coming because no one knew.”

Jordan Bondurant

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WWE over the weekend held its annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view show, and in typical Rumble fashion the event didn’t go off without its fair share of surprise returns.

Among those returns was that of Pat McAfee to commentary. McAfee had last been seen on WWE television back in the summer. He took a leave of absence from his SmackDown responsibilities on Friday nights to go be an analyst on College GameDay.

McAfee’s SmackDown broadcast partner Michael Cole appeared on The Pat McAfee Show on Monday and said he honestly didn’t think Pat would go back to WWE.

“I legit did not know if you were ever gonna be back,” Cole said, alluding to the fact that McAfee is now a father-to-be as a couple of big changes in his life. “And if you noticed I haven’t said much to anyone publicly about when you were coming because no one knew.”

Cole said he had prepared to call the Royal Rumble alongside broadcast partner Corey Graves, and it wasn’t until McAfee’s name flashed on the screen in the Alamodome that Cole realized what was happening.

“Paul Levesque was in my ear and he said, ‘Are you gonna sell it?’ And I mouthed to him in the spy cam, ‘Sell what?'” Cole said. “Then I looked up and saw your video board and I’m like oh my God you’re ribbing me.”

“I didn’t even know what to say and then when I saw you were in your blazer I was legit like so excited,” he added.

Cole said even his wife, who doesn’t typically watch WWE programming, tuned in and was excited to watch Pat make his return.

“She thought I was texting her to tell her that you were coming back. I knew nothing about it,” Cole said. “She texted me and said, ‘PAT!’ right in the middle of your entrance. It was craziness dude.”

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