Now that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has directed his education department to investigate the legitimacy of a high school football team out of Columbus called Bishop Sycamore and now that ESPN has looked into how it decided to televise a game last weekend that Bishop Sycamore lost 58-0 and now that it has been widely reported that this was Bishop Sycamore’s second game in three days and now that police in Canton, Ohio, are looking into reports that Bishop Sycamore athletic officials passed bad checks, it is time to initiate the most important inquiry of all: into ourselves.

Guess what? We make this scam possible.

There is one reason all of this happened. We have commercialized and commodified high school sports into a $5 billion industry and, as a result, incentivized the creation of Bishop Sycamores — barnstorming teenage sports teams masquerading as schools — to get a share.

You learned in recent years that college athletes are exploited. Well, the good news is that at least it doesn’t come as a shock to the players. Bishop Sycamore is a reminder that they have been indoctrinated to such subjugation as early as 10th, 11th and 12th grade. Even ninth grade, in some places.

Who knows where it all started? Maybe with the high cost of a college degree, which parents and guardians think they can obtain debt-free if their sports-playing son or daughter is good enough to win an athletic scholarship. (Or to steal one, in the case of actress Lori Loughlin and other Hollywood and big-business types who got convicted and imprisoned for bribing coaches at elite colleges to gain admission for their kids as fake athletic recruits.)

Maybe it was with the Black families who have bought into the idea of pouring everything into developing their kids’ football or basketball skills as the purchase price of a lottery ticket that could turn into a lucrative, life-altering professional football or basketball contract.

Maybe it was the taxpayers and private funders who buy school and town pride by investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the construction of stadiums as former New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson did the $137 million Canton stadium in his name. That’s the stadium where Bishop Sycamore lost, 58-0, to IMG Academy. IMG, by the way, is a Bradenton, Fla., boarding school that exists to turn teenage athletes into pros.

Maybe it was that all the other teams at legitimate academic institutions such as DeMatha are willing to sign up to play Bishop Sycamore, no matter its sketchiness. The Stags, along with just about every other team on Bishop Sycamore’s 2021 schedule, pulled out last week as the scandal unspooled. My alma mater, Good Counsel, was on a matchmaking lists of schools looking for big football games, along with Bishop Sycamore and a host of prominent schools.

Maybe it was with outlets such as Paragon Marketing, the company that put together the 58-0 game — and the same company that in 2002 sold a high school basketball game to ESPN featuring Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary, with a wunderkind named LeBron James.

Maybe it was with ESPN. Period.

“I’m not going to impugn their character right off the bat,” Jay Coakley, a professor emeritus of sports sociology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, told me by phone Thursday, speaking of the men at the center of the controversy, Bishop Sycamore’s former coach Roy Johnson and co-founder Andre Peterson. Peterson fired Johnson on Tuesday.

“The misperceptions about the mobility into the pros and making money and of what young people have to have in order to have a backup plan, those things just made it look like exploitation,” said Coakley, who continues to study the pitfalls of youth sports. “But unless there was this context, this guy wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.”

Here’s the context: Our sports fanaticism laid the faulty foundation on which Bishop Sycamore became the latest to erect a flimsy shop. The YouTube basketball sensation out of Baltimore’s Patterson High in the early 2010s, Aquille Carr, a.k.a. “The Crimestopper,” wound down his high school career at a place called Princeton Day Academy in Beltsville, Md. It claimed to be an online school. Police found students sleeping at a Laurel Boys and Girls Club building. Carr’s team played upward of 50 games.

Carr never made it to college. He played a little overseas, a little minor league basketball. The number listed for Princeton Day Academy in Beltsville wasn’t working last week. A GPS photo of its address showed a foliage-and-weed-covered lot.

Bishop Sycamore appears headed for such an ending. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the school wasn’t registered in the state of Ohio for this academic year, though it has until the end of September to do so. Last school year, it reported only three enrolled students despite fielding a football team. The team went 0-6.

A school such as Bishop Sycamore is “basically taking an opportunity in a whole context which has an exploitive component to it,” Coakley said, “and the fact that school districts are failing a lot of especially minority kids and kids in low-income areas. Some of the parents feel, you know, I can do as good as these teachers getting my kid to read a book. Besides that, now we’ve gone through almost two years of doing it [teaching] on and off remote. So this isn’t a strange concept to anybody anymore.”

Every major college looking for teenage labor to fill its revenue-generating rosters of football and basketball players employs academic counselors and tutors, often in separate facilities, to make up for educational shortcomings that recruits from lousy school systems and broken schools may have suffered.

“So I think that this program [Bishop Sycamore] ought to be looked at not just for the exclusive reason of condemning the people who started it but to see it as the canary in the coal mine,” Coakley said. “This is a program that is alerting us to a context that really has to be reshaped.”

That probably won’t come anytime soon, however. To be sure, comedian Kevin Hart and agent Rich Paul saw more opportunity in the Bishop Sycamore saga. They announced last week they were cashing it in as a docuseries.