Controversy reigned at the state boys tennis tournament in Rapid City, S.D., last weekend, including a restraining order filed by O’Gorman coach Don Barnes after one of his doubles teams was disqualified.
In a temporary restraining order that was filed and later rescinded against the State of South Dakota and the South Dakota High School Activities Association, Barnes stated that the SDHSAA defaulted O’Gorman’s Flight 2 doubles team for being late for competition despite there being “no scheduled match time and despite the fact that they could have put another match on while we were waiting for our (doubles team) to drive to the facility.”
Michael Yousef and Zach Ridl, seeded first in their doubles flight, forfeited their second-round match against Pierre’s 17th-seeded team after they were approximately 30 minutes late for the start of their match. The event was moved indoors prior to the start of doubles competition due to inclement weather.
Barnes and Khalil Yousef, Michael’s father, are listed as plaintiffs on the order, which sought to prevent the SDHSAA from prohibiting the Knights’ Flight 2 doubles team from competing in the main draw of the state tournament.
“The SDHSAA’s decision deprived our flight two doubles team to compete in the main draw and essentially has deprived our entire team of a chance to win a state championship,” Barnes’ signed affidavit reads. O’Gorman ended up in fifth place with 413 points, well behind the 629 points tallied by five-time defending team champion Lincoln and the 502 points accumulated by runner-up Rapid City Stevens.
The motion for preliminary injunction was granted at 10:27 a.m. on Friday and was to remain in effect until 5 p.m. on May 27. That timeline would have prevented the SDHSAA from crowning a team champion and required teams to travel back to Rapid City the following weekend to resume Flight 2 doubles competition.
A motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order was submitted later Friday. The motion was signed by a judge at approximately 2:30 p.m., allowing Flight 2 doubles competition to resume.
Barnes and O’Gorman athletic director Steve Kueter both declined comment Monday.
Pierre coach Steve Steele said in a phone interview that coaches were told via text message Thursday afternoon to move to the indoor sites due to weather. The schedule posted on the SDHSAA website instructs teams to “report directly” to either the Tennis Center of the Black Hills (Flights 1-2 doubles, Flights 1-4 singles) or the Arrowhead Country Club (Flight 3 doubles, Flights 5-6 singles).
In his affidavit, Barnes states that parents and coaches were told to not travel to either indoor facility due to “very limited seating.” Instead, coaches were to download a cell phone app for updates on match times and locations. According to Barnes, specific match times were never given for the relocated matches.
“What we had said was mainly to the parents because we didn’t want all the parents out there,” SDHSAA executive director Dan Swartos explained. “‘Don’t go out there unless your group is called.’ I think it was right after 4 o’clock, maybe a little bit before, the Flights 1 and 2 doubles need to be out at the Tennis Center.”
The app Barnes referred to is “Remind,” a free one-directional text message application. Swartos said the text-messaging system was also used during the girls tennis season. At the boys tournament, it was used for preliminary meetings on Wednesday and again on Thursday when the storms rolled in.
After waiting in the Sioux Park parking lot for approximately 30 minutes, Barnes said he drove to the Arrowhead Country Club, site of the Flight 3 doubles and Flights 5-6 singles, to check on the matches. He adds that it was “virtually impossible” to view the matches because there were so many people in the viewing area.
He then traveled up Sheridan Lake Road to a gas station approximately a half-mile away from the Tennis Center of the Black Hills, site of the top-flight singles and doubles, where he ordered a sandwich and awaited updates.
It was during this time that a player’s parent informed him that the Knights’ Flight 1 doubles team, Cade Damgaard and Will McDowell, had been called upon to play. Damgaard and McDowell were 10 minutes late for the start of their match and were penalized three games in accordance with SDHSAA rules.
Following the conclusion of O’Gorman’s Flight 1 doubles match, Barnes, who had driven to the Tennis Center of the Black Hills, said he was informed by the SDHSAA that his Flight 2 doubles team was to play. He asserts that cell service at the facility was “extremely limited and not reliable” and argues that the SDHSAA could have put other teams on the court while waiting for the Knights to arrive.
A doubles team is allowed to be up to 15 minutes late before it forfeits a match, but Swartos said Flight 1 doubles teams were given an additional 30 minutes before the 15-minute timer started on their match. About 10 minutes after Damgaard and McDowell showed up for their match, Yousef and Ridl were called to the court, then the clock on their match officially began.
“In the mind of our official, the one who makes these calls, when the Flight 1 doubles got there, O’Gorman is there,” Swartos said. “We don’t have any reason to believe that just these kids are here when they knew both flights were having to play.”
Swartos said Monday that no other school incurred penalties for being late to matches during this year’s state tennis tournament.
“The tournament directors made the decision that it was a forfeit,” Steele said. “We didn’t ask for it, we didn’t beg for it. It was just one of those things where if you look in the tennis handbook, they get 15 minutes past when the other party stepped on the court and we were on the court for almost 20 minutes.”
The restraining order was the cause of much consternation Friday at the state meet. The legal action meant that no Flight 2 matches would be played until the SDHSAA could make its case in front of a judge.
“If it would have gone through, it would have been a huge, huge mess,” Lincoln coach Tom Krueger said Saturday evening. “It really would have affected kids all across the state, because they were saying people would have had to come back 10 days later… Thankfully, cooler minds prevailed, and people started thinking about the kids that it was affecting.”