EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Hart’s HartBeat Productions is teaming up with youth entertainment company Complex Networks, Klutch Originals and Haven Entertainment on what they say will be the definitive documentary series on one the wildest sports tale of 2021: the story of Bishop Sycamore High School’s football team.
On the heels of tricking ESPN into airing one of its games, the alleged “fake” high school from Columbus, Ohio, quickly rose to global attention after becoming embroiled in a litany of controversies including age concerns, arrest records, questions around the origins of the school itself and other dark secrets.
Most true sports tales that rise to the level of films and series focus on rags-to-riches program that, led by a coach on a redemption mission, pulls together a team of underdogs that beat the powerhouse rival to win the state title. This is not that story.
The Bishop Sycamore High School team took a 58-0 whipping at the hands of the elite IMG Academy , a place where many NFL careers are born, whose organizers were told by Bishop Sycamore that they were in for a competitive contest. The game was televised Sunday on ESPN, and fast became such a one-sided affair that the broadcast team spent less time on play by play and more on expressing wonder in why Bishop Sycamore was on the same field as IMG, why the broadcasters themselves were there describing the slaughter, and expressing real concern that the Bishop Sycamore players would get hurt in the rout.
The head coach has since been fired in the wake of questions of whether Bishop Sycamore is even a school in Ohio, much less an elite football program. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has requested an investigation.
Hollywood always smells a good story and there has been a stampede to corral rights to this one, even as it plays out in real time. Hart and Klutch Sports Group CEO-founder Rich Paul (also LeBron James’ agent and head of UTA Sports) are the first to stake out ground here. They have secured exclusive interviews with players and coaches both present and past who were part of what is now reportedly considered an online charter school. They are in discussions with high-level creative showrunners and editors and will secure one soon, and they soon take this to market to find a broadcaster.
“As soon as I started following this story, I was immediately drawn to it and knew it was something that myself and my team at HartBeat had to dive into. HBP thrives in the doc-series space,” Hart said. “We understand how to break down stories and capture the most interesting and honest moments in a narrative. We know this con comes with a robust backstory and cannot wait to share it with the world.”
Said Paul: “When the news first broke, it became clear to me that this side of the amateur athletics landscape needs to be more deeply discussed and explored, and I’m thrilled that HartBeat, Complex and Haven Entertainment share Klutch Original’s passion for telling important and timely sports stories.”
Driven by Complex Networks’ coverage and research around the story, exclusive access to former players and coaches, and some of the most revered and creative partners in HartBeat, Haven Entertainment and Klutch, the docseries will take a deep dive into how the school and this game fooled the world and became front page news.
Additionally, the story will be developed into a scripted adaptation.
“The story of Bishop Sycamore has quickly become one of the most unique roller coaster plots sports has ever seen,” said Zion Olojede, an editor at Complex. “Our extensive research and interviews about the program have revealed alleged dark secrets and details that have put Complex at the forefront of this coverage and global conversation. I’m excited for us to be able to share and tell the full story in ways that no other company can, and in the incredible company of partners like HartBeat Productions, Klutch Originals, and Haven Entertainment.”
Said Haven’s Kevin Mann and Michael Mann: “This is the type of layered and complicated story we pride ourselves on telling and we are excited to partner with HartBeat Productions, Klutch Originals and Complex Networks.”