SC High School League makes decision on JL Mann’s tennis team’s rules violation

The JL Mann High School boys tennis team is back in the postseason.

But the Patriots will their remaining matches without their head coach.

After initially disqualifying the team after a rules violation surrounding its lineup, the SC High School League Executive Committee voted 12-0 on Friday to allow JL Mann back in the playoffs. But the committee also voted to suspend JL Mann head coach John Armstrong for the remainder of the postseason.

Armstrong is not allowed on site for any of JL Mann’s remaining playoff matches.

JL Mann will play TL Hanna in the Class 5A Upper State championship match at a date to be determined. The winner of that match will play Carolina Forest in the championship match at another to be determined date.

“Clearly, this is a clerical error that JL Mann needed to clear up,” SCHSL committee member Sam Barfell said. “But not at (expense of) the kids’ season.”

SCHSL committee member Nicolas Pearson agreed with Barfell, but he added the motion to remove Armstrong for the postseason.

“Since it was a clerical error, we can hold the coach accountable for the clerical error and allow the kids the ability to compete,” Pearson said.

JL Mann defeated Dorman, 6-0, on Monday in the third round of the Class 5A Boys Upper State bracket and was scheduled to play TL Hanna in the state semifinal on Wednesday. But the SCHSL disqualified JL Mann after it was determined the team violated rules regarding its lineup.

Teams are not allowed to switch their playing order, also known as their “playing ladder,” during the season without documentation.

Before Monday’s match, Dorman’s coach asked Armstrong for JL Mann’s ladder. Armstrong gave the Dorman coach JL Mann’s postseason ladder but not the preseason one.

The preseason ladder was eventually provided to the high school league, but SCHSL associate commissioner Sarah Hayes said there were discrepancies regarding the paperwork and challenge matches that were used to determine to set the ladder.

Before the season, teams are allowed to use pro sets or regular sets to determine their order. But once the season starts, pro sets aren’t allowed to be used. It was found out JL Mann used a pro set to determine the order and, as a result, didn’t play with its No. 1 player in the Dorman match as a punishment. That moved the rest of the players up in the order (No. 2 to No. 1, No. 3 to No. 2 and so on) with their No. 1 player out of the match.

“We didn’t need to manipulate the ladder to win,” JL Mann principal Shannon Gibson said on Friday during the hearing. “We have no motivation to cheat. It doesn’t make sense.”

JL Mann of Greenville has been dominant this season and is the defending 5A state champion.

The rest of the state tennis championships will go on as scheduled this Saturday at the Eddie Floyd Tennis Center in Florence. Myrtle Beach will face Riverside in Class 4A at 10 a.m. In 3A, Camden will face Daniel and Oceanside Collegiate takes on Christ Church in 2A. Both of those matches begin at 10 a.m.