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Ventura, Calif. • A Southern California community college football player was suspended for five years on Monday for knocking out a referee during a game, but his school said the punch was accidental and the penalty will be appealed.
The commissioner of the Southern California Football Association suspended freshman Bernard Schirmer "based on what he's seen and the comments he's heard from the field" following last Saturday's game, said Brian Yokohama, sports information director for Mount San Antonio College.
"This basically ruins his career," he said.
Video showed the line judge falling to the ground as he tried to break up a fight on the field. Police said the official, whose name was not released, was struck and knocked unconscious.
"I talked to him yesterday. He's a little sore from going down so hard, but he said he had no headache or anything else," Rich Kollen, director of football operations for the Southern California Football Association, said Monday.
Kollen said the man has not seen a physician. He is scheduled to officiate at another game Saturday.
Schirmer, 19, was immediately ejected from the game and later arrested on suspicion of battery and taken to Ventura County jail. He posted bail Sunday morning. The Ventura County District Attorney's Office will decide whether to charge Schirmer.
Schirmer said he accidentally hit the referee and was truly sorry. He told the Ventura County Star newspaper (http://bit.ly/2cQZh4e) that he often tries to calm down by hitting himself on the helmet and he didn't realize the line judge was so close.
"My friends were trying to pull me back away from the defensive end," Schirmer said. "I didn't know the ref was right inside of me, bear hugging me."
The school examined enlarged video of the incident frame by frame and came to the same conclusion, Yokohama said.
"It clearly showed to us that Bernard, like he's done before, hit himself in the helmet pretty hard and then a split-second after a frame or two after you see the official hit with his arm. It wasn't anything intentional," Yokohama said. "He has no clue that the official was down."
The school will appeal the suspension to the California Community Athletic Association, he said.
College officials and police said Saturday that the referee wasn't interested in pressing charges. A video clip of the incident, which happened between plays in the third quarter, was initially used by police to determine whether to arrest the 6-foot-5 (2-meter), 270-pound (122-kilogram) offensive lineman. It was viewed widely online and was shown on ESPN's SportsCenter.