Clarkston student to go to federal court after being ruled ineligible for basketball season

Thomas Kithier ruled ineligible after transfer from Macomb Dakota to Clarkston

CLARKSTON, Mich. – Ineligible high school basketball star Thomas Kithier and his fight to play for Clarkston High School has taken another turn with lawyers planning to get him back on the basketball court.

ORIGINAL STORY: Michigan high school basketball star ruled ineligible for senior season after transfer

Kithier, who already has a scholarship to Michigan State, said he transferred from Macomb Dakota to Clarkston for educational reasons, but Macomb Dakota said it was for athletic reasons without having had interviewed the student. Kithier's attorneys are taking the disagreement to federal court next week, filing a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order that will potentially get him playing basketball again by Jan. 15. 

"We intend to ask for a temporary restraining order or permanent injunction keeping them from keeping him from playing," attorney Steve Fishman said.

Fishman believes it's unconstitutional that high school students who want a better math teacher can transfer to a different school, but those who want a better coach aren't allowed. 

"There is no reason to treat athletics any different than the band or whether there is a great science program," said Fishman.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association  insists Kithier broke the rules by transferring for sports reasons. Neither side plans to back down and the court ruling will have a lasting impact, setting a precedent for all  athletes statewide.   

"I'm being flooded with people in the identical position saying 'Please, help me,'" attorney Ven Johnson said.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association said they cannot comment because of the pending litigation, but did send a list of violations that occurred, which you can view below.

In order to bring additional understanding to a recently publicized transfer of a high-profile basketball player between member high schools, the MHSAA is providing the following pertinent facts in understanding the matter of the 12th grader’s transfer to Clarkston High School from Macomb Dakota.

  • The student’s change of residence during the summer of 2017 was on his own – without his parents – to a condominium in Clarkston. This made him ineligible at Clarkston until Jan. 15, 2018, without the completion of an Educational Transfer Form signed by principals from both Clarkston and Dakota High School.
  • An Educational Transfer Form is required for transfers that meet three exceptions to the MHSAA Transfer Rule: 1. Change of residence by a student between the homes of divorced parents or parents who never married; 2. Change of residence by an 18-year-old who moves without his parents; 3. Change of residence to a boarding school. This basketball player is 18 years old. The Educational Transfer Form requires both school principals to certify that the transfer is “not significantly related to or motivated by athletics.” The student’s previous school did not complete the form.
  • The student’s previous school then made a formal allegation that the transfer was primarily for athletic reasons and that the student should be ineligible for a total of 180 scheduled school days under the Athletic Motivated Transfer Regulation.
  • Clarkston had opportunities to respond to the Dakota allegation, and did so. The allegation was then confirmed by the MHSAA Executive Director. Clarkston appealed to the MHSAA Executive Committee, which confirmed that the transfer was primarily for athletic reasons.
  • In neither Clarkston’s written appeal nor its presentation to the Executive Committee has it been stated that the family has made a full and complete change of residence into the Clarkston school district. The mother’s affidavit of Nov. 13, 2017, attested that she and her husband did not reside in Clarkston with their son, but in Macomb, Mich. Under the Athletic Motivated Transfer Regulation, a full subsequent move by the family would not reduce the 180-day period of ineligibility.
  • The MHSAA office found that Clarkston had not partaken in undue influence (recruiting) to secure the transferring athlete. This point was acknowledged by the school itself in writing on Nov. 14. It was reiterated when the MHSAA handed down the Executive Committee decision earlier this week.
  • The Athletic Motivated Transfer Regulation has been in effect since 1997.