The Detroit News - - Front Page - Tony Paul con­trib­uted

“heart­bro­ken” by the rul­ing. The fam­ily moved into the school dis­trict.

“Our move to Clark­ston was a pri­vate fam­ily de­ci­sion and one that we did not take lightly,” the fam­ily said in a state­ment. “We watched as our son’s school en­vi­ron­ment grew in­creas­ingly in­tol­er­a­ble for him over two years, and we knew that stay­ing at Ma­comb Dakota High School was not in his best in­ter­est. We re­searched sev­eral Michi­gan schools, and found Clark­ston’s out­stand­ing cul­ture and aca­demic cur­ricu­lum to be a great fit for Thomas’ needs and fu­ture goals.

“Thomas is thriv­ing so­cially and aca­dem­i­cally at Clark­ston High School, but as a life­long stu­dent-ath­lete, he is heart­bro­ken to be de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in sports.

“We fol­lowed the rules, and our one and only mo­ti­va­tion for trans­fer­ring to Clark­ston was to sur­round our son with a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity that sees him as a mul­ti­fac­eted hu­man be­ing, and not a com­mod­ity.”

The MHSAA hand­book has seven clauses that define an “ath­let­i­cally mo­ti­vated” trans­fer, and John­son said No. 7 specif­i­cally ap­plied to Kithier’s case. That clause reads: “The stu­dent seeks to par­tic­i­pate with team­mates or coaches with whom he/ she par­tic­i­pated in non-school com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing the pre­ced­ing 12 months.”

Kithier and Clark­ston’s Fos­ter Loyer play sum­mer ball to­gether, and both are head­ing to Michi­gan State to play for Tom Izzo.

The bur­den of proof in trans­fer dis­putes is on the former school, and John­son said there was suf­fi­cient proof to make the rul­ing the MHSAA did, be­cause Kithier, in mul­ti­ple me­dia re­ports, had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in play­ing with Loyer.

“There were enough in­stances in the me­dia re­port­ing the de­sire to play to­gether,” said John- son, adding the MHSAA gets about two or three trans­fer dis­putes a year, and that “sev­eral have proven to be true in the end.”

Ma­comb Dakota coach Paul Tocco didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quest for com­ment. A mes­sage was left for Izzo, and was not im­me­di­ately re­turned Thurs­day night.

It’s un­clear what Kithier’s next step will be, though his best op­tion would ap­pear to be spend­ing a year play­ing at a prep school be­fore head­ing to Michi­gan State.

The rul­ing was met with a fe­ro­cious and pas­sion­ate re­sponse from Clark­ston brass, from the su­per­in­ten­dent on down.

“As su­per­in­ten­dent, I will not tol­er­ate in­jus­tice, prej­u­dice, or ar­bi­trar­ily lim­it­ing stu­dents,” said Dr. Rod Rock, su­per­in­ten­dent of Clark­ston Com­mu­nity Schools, in a state­ment. “We will not im­pose adult de­ci­sion that ham­per long-term achieve­ments upon them.

“We will stand up for ev­ery stu­dent, in ev­ery case. Just as we ex­pect our Wolves to fight un­til the fi­nal whis­tle on the play­ing field, in the arena, in the class­room, and when bat­tling life’s ob­sta­cles, we will fight for Thomas Kithier — he’s our kid.”

Said Clark­ston coach Dan Fife: “Dur­ing my coach­ing ca­reer, there have been times where fam­i­lies moved to Clark­ston and their sons played on my teams. My only con­cern when that oc­curs is that the fam­i­lies fol­low the rules set by the MHSAA. That is what oc­curred in this case, and yet, I find my­self in the po­si­tion (for the first time in 35 years) of hav­ing to de­fend the in­tegrity of my player, the Clark­ston bas­ket­ball pro­gram, and my­self as a coach. The MHSAA does not have a han­dle on trans­fers, and they’re mak­ing an ex­am­ple of Thomas.”

Clark­ston still plans to take up the case with the MHSAA’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil, but it doesn’t meet un­til the spring, too late to sal­vage Kithier’s sea­son at Clark­ston.

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