LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California community college football player was suspended for five years on Monday after knocking out a referee during a game, but his school said the punch was accidental and the penalty will be appealed.
"I knew I wasn't going to play the next game....I didn't think it would be years," Bernard Schirmer of Mount San Antonio College said after learning of the suspension.
However, the 19-year-old man said in a telephone interview that he takes full responsibility for his actions and accepts whatever punishment he ultimately will receive.
The commissioner of the Southern California Football Association suspended Schirmer for what was termed a "Level 1 Decorum Infraction," which carries a minimum 60-month suspension.
A letter from football association Commissioner Jim Sartoris to the college says an official's game report stated that Schirmer was disqualified during the third quarter of Saturday night's game in Ventura for an "unsportsmanlike act" — punching a referee and knocking him out cold.
The decision to suspend the player was made after viewing video of the incident and reviewing a report provided by the head referee, Sartoris said.
Video streaming live from the game showed the line judge falling to the ground.
"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 was arrested on suspicion of battery after the incident, booked at Ventura County's jail and released on bail. The district attorney's office will decide whether to file criminal charges.
The player said he has not heard anything more from police about the case.
Schirmer, who stands 6-foot-6 (2 meters) and weighs 275 pounds (122 kilograms), said he was having words with a defensive end who had pushed him.
"I let him get the best of me," Schirmer said. "I tried to approach him and my teammates were holding me back and I had no idea that the official was, like, hugging me or something."
Schirmer said when he becomes frustrated or angry on the football field, he hits his helmet to refocus — once even giving himself a mild concussion.
So during Saturday night's confrontation , he struck the side of his helmet.
"The next thing I know, the ref was on the ground ... I honestly thought somebody else hit him," Schirmer said.
The school looked at the enlarged video frame by frame and concluded that Schirmer accidentally struck the official with his forearm. The college will appeal what could be a career-ending suspension, sports information director Brian Yokoyama said.
"I'm really sorry," Schirmer said. "I didn't mean where it (the blow) went. I just tried to get myself focused, and it all went south."
This story has been corrected to show the correct spelling of Brian Yokoyama's last name.