Saddleback College, which shared the national community college football championship last year with Snow College of Utah, will forfeit its first three victories of the 1986 season because it used an ineligible player, school officials announced Thursday.
Neither Saddleback nor Mission Conference officials would reveal the player's name.
Saddleback was in violation of the State Athletic Code of the California Assn. of Community Colleges (CACC), which states that no community college athlete will be allowed more than two seasons of eligibility in any one sport. The school notified the CACC after it discovered the infraction.
In a prepared statement, William Otta, Saddleback's athletic assistant, said: "We have been conducting an in-house investigation of the matter during the past few weeks and we found we were in violation . . .
"The player in question played in 1984, and participated last season in a few plays. He played in the first three games this season. It was simply an error and Saddleback College regrets the error."
"It was not his (the player's) fault," said Bill Kelly, Saddleback's Dean of Student Services. "He was not trying to falsify anything. It was just a error. There was not attempt to deceive anyone . . . Still, this is no excuse."
Saddleback Coach Ken Swearingen was unavailable for comment.
The Gauchos forfeit victories over El Camino, Grossmont and Orange Coast. Saddleback, which before the forfeits was 4-2 in the Mission Conference and 5-2 overall, is now 2-4 and 2-5. The Gauchos have no chance at winning a 10th consecutive conference championship or making a postseason bowl appearance.
Walt Rilliet, the CACC Commissioner of Athletics, said Saddleback did the right thing.
"It is up to the individual institutions to declare players ineligible," Rilliet said. "We feel bad this has occurred but we compliment Saddleback on taking care of the matter."
Kelly said Saddleback sent a letter outlining the violation and the school's response on Tuesday to conference commissioner T. Mark Johnson. But Johnson said he still hasn't received it.
"I will wait for the letter to arrive before I issue an official statement," Johnson said. "After getting the letter, I will review it and then decide what action should be taken if more is needed."