JUCO player who punched out a referee signs with USC

Bernard Schirmer, who was banned from JUCO football after punching out a referee during a game, will soon be wearing a USC helmet as a redshirt sophomore. (Getty Images)

Bernard Schirmer, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound former junior college offensive lineman, will be joining the USC football team as a redshirt sophomore, having signed a financial aid agreement that was announced on Tuesday. This would be a fairly mundane occurrence if it weren’t for one fact: in 2016, Schirmer punched out a referee in the middle of a game and was led away in handcuffs.

The punch that (almost) ended Schirmer’s football career

The punch happened nearly two years ago, when Schirmer was a 19-year-old freshman at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. He had gotten into an intense argument with a player from the opposing team, and was being restrained by his teammates and one of the referees. They all had him in a bear hug when Schirmer raised his fist and hit the referee in the head, knocking him unconscious.

Schirmer was ejected from the game, and was arrested on suspicion of battery. After his arrest, Schirmer apologized to the ref and said that it was completely unintentional. To calm and focus himself during games, he would punch himself on the helmet. When he did it that time, he had no idea the ref was so close to him.

Even though Schirmer was arrested, the referee refused to press charges and none were ever filed. According to CBS Los Angeles, Mt. San Antonio College officials talked to witnesses and examined video from the incident frame by frame, and concluded that the punch was an accident. Despite that, the Southern California Football Association suspended Schirmer for five years.

Schirmer’s return to football

Mount San Antonio College attempted to appeal the SCFA ban two different times, but both times were denied.

But since the SCFA ban only applies to junior and community colleges in California, USC was free to pursue him.

Clay Helton, head coach of USC Trojans, told 247 sports that he and his staff spent three months extensively evaluating Schirmer before making their decision, talking to to his family and those he worked with at Mt. SAC. And Helton says they feel good about the player USC is getting.

“What we learned from the administrators, coaches and counselors is that we were dealing with a tremendous young man, a young man that is a tremendous student, great person and a guy that we had no question would be a great member of our Trojan family … we listed the expectations that we expect for Bernard and we understand that he knows those expectations and he will do a great job here as a Trojan. We are very excited.” 

Schirmer had previously committed to Utah, but his family history at USC is what led him to make the change. Schirmer’s sister is on the USC women’s volleyball team, his uncle was an offensive guard on the football team in the 1990s, and he has two cousins who are currently on the team.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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