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Max's 'BS High' and Bishop Sycamore's Unbelievable Fake School Scam

By Dustin Rowles | Film | August 29, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | August 29, 2023 |


Though he filed for bankruptcy earlier this summer after racking up $300,000 in debt he couldn’t pay off, there’s a reason Roy Johnson—the guy at the center of the HBO documentary B.S. High—hasn’t been tried and convicted for the events shown in the movie. The guy didn’t break any laws. Why? Because no one thought to make laws against what he did because nobody even considered that someone would do what Roy Johnson did. He started a fake school.

At the beginning of Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe’s documentary, Johnson wants us to believe he had the best of intentions. “Are you a con man?” he is asked. That’s the question the doc unpacks over an hour and a half. Johnson’s only concession? He’s a liar, but he’s an “honest liar.”

Let’s be clear: There’s nothing honest about Johnson.

A few years back, Johnson started a school called Christians of Faith Academy and later changed its name to Bishop Sycamore. The school was supposed to be for athletically gifted but troubled Black kids who wanted college football scholarships. Johnson, the guy who kicked off the whole scheme, promised better grades, better entrance exam scores, and a path to a Division I school.

He manages to get a number of high school athletes on board, but here’s the kicker: The school didn’t exist. Johnson did put together a football team, coached it himself (with zero prior coaching experience), and even set up games against other high schools, including a televised match against the elite IMG Academy, a team so good that no other high school would accept a bid to play them except a fake one.

Johnson basically stuffed the kids into unpaid hotel rooms, fed them by scamming grocery stores, and even forged checks. He raised “tuition” funds through PPP loans taken out in the names of these poor, unsuspecting kids who thought they were on the fast track to college.

The scheme falls apart during a nationally televised game against IMG Academy. Bishop Sycamore gets crushed 58-0. The game was played two nights after they played another, with unsafe equipment and no real medical staff. Players were sent back onto the field with injuries like torn ACLs and messed-up shoulders.

The disastrous game draws enough attention to get the school investigated and eventually shut down. But that’s about all they could do because, again, there’s no law against starting a fake school in Ohio. Johnson gets exposed, and the students lose a shot at college they didn’t know they never had. The “school” didn’t even have teachers. No studying happened. It was just a lousy football team. One kid did manage to get into a college, but his offer got yanked after they found out Bishop Sycamore was fake.

As for Johnson? The guy shows no remorse in hours of B.S. High interviews. He’s almost proud he pushed the lie as far as he did. He brags about his cons, justifies his lies, and only really loses his cool when he’s shown a video of a former student calling him “evil.”

The documentary is fascinating, not just for showing how easy it is to pull off an elaborate con like this, but also for Johnson’s utter lack of empathy. Given the chance, he’d do it all over again because, for him, there’s no line between fame and infamy.

BS High is currently streaming on Max.