The name, image and likeness deals that have quickly become a part of the fabric of high-level collegiate athletics have forever changed the way the recruiting game is played.
After years of being exploited to an extent, student-athletes can finally cash in on their talents and marketability.
But for every feel-good story like Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, who was a millionaire before he ever took a snap for Alabama, there are also those horror stories that show the ugly side of the new way of college sports.
2024 four-star defensive lineman T.A. Cunningham is now experiencing how NIL deals can be used to lie to kids and sell them false dreams.
In the offseason Cunningham received some bad advice, when he was told to leave his home state of Georgia to capitalize on the monetary benefits of NIL deals in California.
Cunningham transferred from Johns Creek High School in suburban Atlanta to Los Alamitos High School in Southern California, his third school in three years. He immediately requested to be eligible on the grounds of family hardship, which would fall under the lines of an eviction or immediate family member in dire need of financial assistance. The California Interscholastic Federation‘s Southern Section denied Cunningham’s request, leaving him in limbo.
They also released the following statement in accordance with its decision.
“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.”
Cunningham’s attorney, Michael Caspino, reportedly did provide evidence showing the talented football star and his family had been evicted from their Georgia home. But that still hasn’t been enough to lift the ban so he can play his junior season after a judge ruled against Cunningham last week in his request for an emergency restraining order that would overturn the CIF-SS ban.
— T.A. CUNNINGHAM !!! (@_getlikealex) March 29, 2022
False Hope And Dreams In Tinseltown?
After the family’s eviction in Georgia, Cunningham’s dad reached out to The Levels Group, a well-known organization that helps initiate NIL deals for rising college and high school athletes. No state has hit the road running in the NIL game like California. That’s why former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams and former Pittsburgh wideout Jordan Addison followed Lincoln Riley to USC. It wasn’t just for his dynamic offense that puts guys in the NFL yearly.
Cunningham saw a light at the end of the dark tunnel, as T.A. and his family were promised NIL deal money, a living place in California and one in Georgia for his mom. TLG also said it would also have meals and transportation in California. Ss of today none of that has come to fruition.
In fact, Cunningham and his brother, a fast rising eighth grader were at one point staying with TLG co-founder Chris Flores. That is until he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a minor. Leaving Cunningham and brother to fend for themselves totally.
Caspino’s filing with the court read like this:
“Now Cunningham is homeless. He did not receive the NIL deals that were promised by the Levels Team. He has been victimized.”
In another turn last week it was announced that the CIF-SS has started an investigation that proves Cunningham moved to California for athletics. That doesn’t help his chances of gaining eligibility. The CIF’s guidelines on change of residence are strict and read like this.
“A student may not be able to participate at the varsity level if there is evidence the move was athletically motivated or the student enrolled in that in school in whole or part for athletic reasons.”
Caspino wants this to serve as a warning to everyone about folks taking advantage of high school athletes.
“I am hoping this is a tremendous wake-up call for everybody about the vermin taking advantage of high school athletes.”
— T.A. CUNNINGHAM !!! (@_getlikealex) September 13, 2022
Now Caspino is tasked with trying to get the nation’s 49th overall recruit and No. 5 defensive lineman in the class of 2024 back on the field and some sense of normalcy that all children should have.
Cunningham Has 59 Offers: He’s A Prized Recruit
Cunningham is highly-coveted, while considered a 100 percent Oklahoma lean. But that hasn’t stopped the likes of Michigan, Georgia, Penn State, and others from recruiting the game-changing lineman. A silver lining in this whole fiasco is having someone of Caspino’s experience handling things for him.
blessed to see another year!!! pic.twitter.com/UB12Nrz7HC
— T.A. CUNNINGHAM !!! (@_getlikealex) September 10, 2022
Caspino has already helped secure a reported $8 million NIL deal for 2023 five-star Tennessee quarterback commit Nico Iamaleava. He also helped secure a big deal for Miami QB commit Jaden Rashada.
Caspino also said the going rate for a four- or five-star is easily seven figures, meaning Cunningham should be able to secure something of that nature once this is cleared up.
Caspino may still be able to help the kid, but from the looks and sounds of things it won’t be in the state of California.
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