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NCAA slaps Bemidji State football team with penalty for using ineligible player, puts end to playoff hopes

An administrative error by Bemidji State University will likely cost the Bemidji State football team the opportunity for postseason play despite Saturday's season-ending win over Concordia-St. Paul.

The Bemidji State University Athletic Department issued a press release Saturday citing an "administrative oversight" with junior transfer student Anthony Ragsdale.

Bemidji State University confirmed the NCAA's ruling of Ragsdale as an ineligible player.

The NCAA leveled a nullification penalty on the Bemidji State football team for using an ineligible player. Ragsdale played in nine games this season for Bemidji State.

Nullification is a formula that negatively affects a team's winning percentage, strength of schedule index and other selection criteria used in the NCAA Championship selection process.

"My heart is just broken right now for these kids and I'm so sick and sad about what happened because (Ragsdale) absolutely did nothing wrong," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said after Saturday's win.

"It's not fair to the kids. We were hoping for just a fine, but the rules are rules and we were hoping they would be interpreted differently. All these kids cared about was playing one more game and this breaks my heart."

Bemidji State defensive coordinator Rich Jahner confirmed Saturday that Bemidji State is appealing the ruling.

Further information on why Ragsdale was deemed an ineligible player or where the administrative error occurred within the university was not immediately available and Bemidji State officials declined further comment.

Ragsdale enrolled at Bemidji State as a transfer from Chabot College and joined the football program for the 2009 season. He played two years at the California-based community college.

Tesch notified the Bemidji State players and coaches of the NCAA's ruling in the locker room following Saturday's win.

The nullification penalty drops Bemidji State's winning percentage from .727 to .502, which will knock Bemidji State out of the Division II Super Regional rankings.

Bemidji State entered the weekend ranked No. 7 in the Super Region Three. There are four super regions in the country and six teams from each super region will be selected to participate in the Division II national tournament.

The NCAA Football Tournament Selection Committee will announce the tournament field Sunday and is not required to follow the rankings absolutely when determining the playoff field, so there is a small possibility Bemidji State could still be selected.

If Bemidji State did not qualify for the national field, Saturday's win all but assured the Beavers a berth in the Mineral Water Bowl. But like the national tournament selection, the nullification penalty will put that game in jeopardy.

The Mineral Water Bowl is a game between the top two teams from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association not to make the national field. It will be played in Excelsior Springs, Mo., on Dec. 5.

Bemidji State University first issued a press release Monday acknowledging the administrative error and forwarded initial findings to the NCAA.

"As soon as the possible infraction was brought to our attention, we looked into the situation and notified the NCAA and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference," Bemidji State Athletic Director Rick Goeb said in the press release. "As a part of the process, we are withholding Anthony from competition until the NCAA renders its decision. Again this stems from an administrative misinterpretation of the NCAA's transfer policies and not from the actions of the individual player involved."

Ragsdale was immediately held from competition and did not play Nov. 1 against U-Mary or Saturday against Concordia.

The NCAA has strict rules regarding transfer students with some notable exceptions. The primary rule pertaining to transfer eligibility in Division II athletics states a transfer student may not play an NCAA sanctioned game until one year of full-time residency has been completed.

The Bemidji State football team finished the season with an 8-3 overall record and was 7-3 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.