Note: Andrew King appeared in HBO’s BS High, and, along with Ben Ferree, has a book, Friday Night Lies, coming out about the Bishop Sycamore scandal.
In the days surrounding the release of BS High, HBO’s Bishop Sycamore documentary, the film has elicited a variety of emotional responses.
The New York Times noted the “broken promises, shattered dreams and physical perils” faced by the Bishop Sycamore players and the system that “exploits young athletes for big money.” TIME’s review is surprised by “a scam so egregious that no one ever thought to make a law against it.” The Guardian marveled at Roy Johnson’s “shocking” interviews and the “gruesome acts” portrayed in the film.
But Joe Maimone — founder of Prep Gridiron Logistics and the man who helped match Bishop Sycamore to IMG Academy for their infamous ESPN matchup — had a different reaction: he came away from the film blaming the players themselves, painting them not as victims, but as people who “knew what they were getting into” and whose “helicopter parents” were only complaining because of an atmosphere of “cancel culture.”
Maimone was briefly interviewed in the documentary, in which he labeled himself a “matchmaker to the top teams in America in the world of high school football” and bragged that Bishop Sycamore’s 2021 schedule was “one of the best I’ve ever put together for any team.” Awful Announcing has previously covered Maimone’s glowing comments about Bishop Sycamore made on high school football message boards in the months leading up to the IMG game when confronted by other posters who were dubious of the school and program.
On Tuesday, he appeared in person on the Barstool Sports Picks Central show, where he brought a T-shirt for one of the hosts and made jokes about their recent blogs.
Over a 40-minute interview, Maimone called the BS High filmmakers liars, claimed that the school was legitimate because Bishop Sycamore was “registered with the state of Ohio” (a registration that was later rescinded because it was fraudulent) and claimed that their “reclassed” students scheme was completely legitimate.
But the thrust of Maimone’s interview was his ire for the Bishop Sycamore players themselves.
During his conversation with the Barstool hosts, Maimone repeatedly placed the blame at the feet of the players, excused the massive flaws in and crimes committed by Bishop Sycamore’s organization, called players liars and implied (or explicitly stated) that their interviews were inaccurate, had an ulterior motive, or even came as an exchange for publicity from HBO.
Maimone said he was “furious” while watching the game between Bishop Sycamore and IMG Academy on ESPN because the game announcers were “the ones who put mystery into the game.” He claimed that the crew was “ill-prepared to call the game” and “knew nothing about the players” and “didn’t have a roster.”
“If you watch that game with the volume off, it’s a regular blowout football game,” he said. “If you watch it with the volume on, the ESPN announcers caused this whole ****** thing.”
Maimone neglected to mention that Bishop Sycamore provided an inaccurate and incomplete roster for the day. Players on the field were missing, and others on the provided roster were not present.
Sorry. They had no business being in that game today. None. I feel bad for the kids. Player health and safety was at risk today. It was uncomfortable for anyone who watched. https://t.co/Eq39vdywLm
— Anish Shroff (@ShroffPxP) August 29, 2021
But that early frustration at the ESPN game ultimately gave way to Maimone’s real anger, which is directed at the Bishop Sycamore players, who he suggested should be more grateful for the opportunity they were given.
Asked if thought it was fine for the players to not be going to school, he replied, “They had no choice.”
“This was the last resort,” he said. “These kids either got thrown out of their high school, they were one or two credits short to go to college and couldn’t afford JUCO — there’s a reason they were there. None of these boys were babes in the woods. The large majority of them knew what they were getting into.”
Maimone mentioned his own son, a lacrosse player, and was asked if he would want his son to be treated like the Bishop Sycamore players were.
“Of course not, but he wouldn’t have to,” Maimone said. “These players who came to Sycamore came there with just the shirts on their back. They had nothing else in their life to rely on. … I wouldn’t want that for my kids. But these kids were given other opportunities in their lives. They ran out of them and this was a last-ditch effort to play the game they love.”
The hosts noted that it didn’t really seem like Bishop Sycamore cared about school at all, but Maimone shrugged off that idea. “They tried,” he offered halfheartedly.
To Maimone, the issues raised in the documentary simply don’t matter because of who the kids were. Helmets flying off and being shared by players? “That still happens in high schools all over ******* America.”
Kids being “reclassified” as high school students even though they were ineligible due to age or a variety of other factors? “Who cares?” Documentation that none of their players graduated from school and very few took any classes? “They were registered with the State of Ohio. I had the certificate.” Maimone even dismissed the very real concerns and anger shared by the parents of the players.
“In this world of helicopter parenting, every sport in America has parents that feel scorned or pissed off.”
In Maimone’s view, he and Johnson are the victims, and others are hesitant to speak up simply because “everybody is afraid to tell the truth” and “the cancel culture was so crazy during this time.”
Maimone has a particularly high level of disdain for former Bishop Sycamore player Justin Daniel, who was one of the players featured in the documentary. He called Daniel “a real opponent, really against Roy” and said “Roy is the devil to him” before playing a clip of Daniel giving a positive interview during his time at Bishop Sycamore. He implied that that positivity meant that his HBO interviews were a lie.
And because Daniel is an aspiring rapper who has one of his songs featured at the end of the documentary, Maimone feels his criticisms are invalid.
“My question is, what changed between that video and when he was interviewed with freakin’ HBO Max,” Maimone asks, before calling Daniel an “up-and-coming rapper” while making air quotes and smirking. “In my opinion, that was the reward for lying. … It was a great song. I’ve been listening to it over and over.”
Maimone went on to call Adrian “Pahokee” Brown “questionable” because he recently started a GoFundMe page to raise money to attend college. He claimed that the PPP loans were actually a get-rich-quick scheme from the players themselves.
But Maimone’s disdain for making money off of the Bishop Sycamore story ends with himself.
After plugging his website several times throughout the interview, he beamed with joy to report that there was “a documentary maker who wants to be fair and balanced and give (Johnson) his side” in an alleged upcoming film, and was giddy to report that the Bishop Sycamore interest machine was still churning.
“You have no idea — this brand is not going away soon,” he said. “I have teams calling me up saying, ‘Hey, when they come back, I want to play them’ for the notoriety sake of it. Guys, we had a trading card company call. They want to make trading cards of the 2021 Bishop Sycamore team! The sponsorship opportunities are going through the roof.”