Defending junior college Division III men's soccer champion Suffolk Community College has forfeited eight victories this season for using an academically ineligible player, a National Junior College Athletic Association official said yesterday.

The school plans to appeal the decision. Neither the NJCAA nor the school would identify the player.

"I will confirm that Suffolk County CC did use an ineligible player in men's soccer leading to NJCAA sanctions," NJCAA assistant executive director for compliance Brian Beck wrote in an email. "Suffolk County CC has a window of opportunity to appeal the [Oct. 6] ruling made by the NJCAA."

Suffolk, which beat Westchester Thursday, was 10-0 before the forfeits and has won three games since, leaving the team with a 5-8 record pending the appeal. The regular season is over.

"As of right now, we had to forfeit eight games," Suffolk coach Frank Vertullo said. "We're appealing it; we don't know where that is going. They deemed one of our players ineligible, but he has the necessary credits. It's a little bit of a mess."

"In this particular case, there is a difference of interpretation on the rules related to eligibility for this student's particular set of circumstances," Mary Lou Araneo, vice president for institutional advancement at Suffolk, said in a statement. "In such a situation, NJCAA rules state that the NJCAA's definition of eligibility takes precedence.

"The college had no intention of bending any NJCAA rules and cooperated fully with the NJCAA audit," she said.

Suffolk still could make the eight-team Region 15 tournament and qualify for the nationals. "It still comes down to records," said Eric Mercado, a member of the region's Division III soccer committee. "Honestly, if Suffolk makes the playoffs, I would say they still would be the favorites."

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