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Top CA Football Prospect T.A. Cunningham Seeks Injunction to Overturn Ineligibility

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 15, 2022

T.A. Cunningham (Photo Credit: Andrew Ivins/247Sports)

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of T.A. Cunningham, a defensive lineman for Los Alamitos High School, challenging an ineligibility ruling by the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section.

Michael Caspino, the player's attorney, told ESPN's Kyle Bonagura the CIF-SS initially denied Cunningham's hardship application but, after being presented with paperwork showing his family was evicted from its Georgia home earlier this year, the governing body said it would instead open an undue influence investigation related to his connection to the Levels Sports Group, which meant Cunningham would remain ineligible.

"T.A. Cunningham is being treated differently," Caspino said. "He really is."

Cunningham is one of the top players in the 2024 college football recruiting class. He's a 5-star prospect and the No. 19 overall recruit in that year's group, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The lawsuit states the lineman transferred to Los Alamitos during the offseason based on a conversation between his father and the Levels Sports Group.

"The Levels Team promised that the Cunningham family would have a home, transportation and meals in California," the court filing said. "A promise was even made that the Levels Team would provide a separate home in Georgia for [Cunningham's] mother."

Levels is a marketing group aimed a providing high school and college student-athletes with name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, but its co-founder Chris Flores was arrested in August and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault of a minor.

The lawsuit states Cunningham's agreement with Levels was rescinded after Flores' arrest, which left him homeless and with no NIL deals to provide income.

"He has been victimized," the filing said.

The initial response from the CIF-SS said the player's eligibility waiver was declined "based on the grounds that [Cunningham] does not meet the definition of a 'homeless student' and/or has failed to establish that his change of schools was due to a 'hardship,'" per ESPN.

CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod declined to comment to Bonagura about the undue influence investigation or the lawsuit, citing "policy not to comment on pending litigation."

Los Alamitos' next game is Thursday night against Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Caspino is seeking an "immediate order" from the court to make Cunningham available for that contest.

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