Top California football prospect T.A. Cunningham asks for injunction to play after being deemed ineligible

An attorney representing defensive end TA Cunningham, the No. 1 seed in California football in the Class of 2024, filed an injunction in Orange County Superior Court Tuesday, seeking to reverse a decision by last week’s Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation determined that he is not eligible.

During the offseason, Cunningham, a junior, transferred from Georgia, where his parents still live, to Los Alamitos High in Los Alamitos, California. Attorney Michael Caspino’s file calls for an “immediate order” that would make Cunningham eligible to play Thursday night.

“[The CIF and CIF Southern Section] have not provided written justification for their decision to block [Cunningham] from playing football this season,” the file reads.

According to the filing, the ruling by the CIF, California’s governing body for high school athletics, “is based on the reasoning that [Cunningham] does not meet the definition of a ‘homeless student’ and/or has not demonstrated that their school transfer was a result of ‘hardship’.”

Cunningham’s petition challenged that claim by including photographic evidence that his family was evicted from their home earlier this year, resulting in a new school having to be found.

Around the time his family was evicted, Cunningham’s father linked up with representatives from Levels Sports Group, a wannabe sports marketing firm formed to facilitate name, image, and likeness deals, mostly for college and high school -Athletes.

“The Levels team made a promise that the Cunningham family would have a home, transportation, and meals in California,” the filing reads. “It was even promised that the Levels team would provide him with a separate home in Georgia [Cunningham’s] Mother.”

None of this materialized according to the record.

When Cunningham moved to California, he and his younger brother stayed at the home of Levels co-founder Chris “Coach Frogg” Flores, who was later arrested August 8 for multiple sexual assaults on a minor.

“After Flores was arrested, the Levels team went completely black and unresponsive [Cunningham] and his family,” the file says. “After all [Cunningham] asked to terminate his contract with Levels. Levels complied with this request.

“Now, [Cunningham] is homeless. He did not receive the NIL offers promised by the Levels team. He became a victim.”

Caspino told ESPN that after delivering a statement to CIF-SS lawyers on Wednesday proving Cunningham’s harshness, the CIF-SS moved the goalposts. According to Caspino, a representative of the CIF-SS informed him that although the organization no longer contested Cunningham’s hardship application, it had opened an investigation into improper influence during which Cunningham would remain ineligible.

The CIF-SS has several rules related to undue influence in its constitution, including contact with coaches prior to registration prior to a transfer and sport-motivated transfers. Historically, these rules have been difficult to enforce and are applied inconsistently across the state and section.

In an email to ESPN, CIF-SS officer Rob Wigod declined to comment on Cunningham’s transfer, citing a policy not to comment on pending litigation.

“TA Cunningham is treated differently,” Caspino said. “He really is.”

As part of the filing, Caspino included the text of an email dated September 6, addressed to Wigod, among others, complaining about Cunningham’s transfer to Los Alamitos. The unknown author wrote in part: “In football, building illegal mega-teams becomes dangerous for the players they face. Our concern is mostly centered on the possibility of being exposed to devastating injuries while playing against players like TA Cunningham.”

It was later linked to a story quoting Cunningham as saying he visited Los Alamitos and believed he could trust the coaching staff, suggesting a pre-registration communication took place.

Caspino said he expects to present Cunningham’s case to a judge Thursday afternoon. Top California football prospect T.A. Cunningham asks for injunction to play after being deemed ineligible

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