Lord Botetourt football coach files $500,000 defamation lawsuit against Roanoke County leaders

Lord Botetourt head coach Jamie Harless (WSLS 10)

The head football coach at Lord Botetourt High School has filed a defamation lawsuit against several Roanoke County officials.

Coach Jamie Harless filed the lawsuit on March 29 and is seeking $500,000 from Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Ken Nicely, Roanoke County School Board member Timothy Greenway, William Byrd High School Principal Tammy Newcomb and Northside High School Principal Jill Green.

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Harless, who is also a teacher at Lord Botetourt, states in the lawsuit that he was wrongly accused of “unsportsmanlike recruiting practices” and targeting Black players. The lawsuit states that the accusations “damaged Mr. Harless’ reputation in the community.”

In the lawsuit, Harless references a May 13 email from Nicely to the Virginia High School League Associated Director, where Nicely filed a formal sportsmanship complaint against the Lord Botetourt coach. In the email, Nicely cited seven players that transferred from Northside High School to Lord Botetourt over the past two academic school years.

In the letter, Nicely goes on to describe an email he received from Greenway about a conversation where Harless allegedly told a Roanoke County player that he should play for him but then described it as a joke.

In the lawsuit, Harless denied making that statement and points to six other Northside students who transferred to other school divisions.

The email goes on to focus on a football game on Oct. 11, 2019 between Lord Botetourt and William Byrd in Vinton.

Harless claims that Newcomb falsely accused him of referring to two Black players at Byrd as “thugs” and intentionally using “his position to bait two players whom he knew had issues so that it would disrupt play and give him an advantage in play.” Newcomb made the accusations in a letter provided to VHSL by Nicely.

According to the suit, the VHSL heard evidence on the accusations made on Harless’ sportsmanship and conduct during a June 30 panel. During the panel, the suit states that VHSL rejected the charge of “unsportsmanlike conduct” and found that Harless did not participate in “unsportsmanlike recruiting practices.”

In 2019 under Harless, Lord Botetourt had a 14-1 record and got to the 2019 VHSL Class 3 Championship game.

10 News reached out to Roanoke County Public Schools for a statement on the matter and received back the following, “Unfortunately we do not comment on matters involving litigation.”