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October 19, 2011BOISE, Idaho (AP) NCAA officials have reinstated a Boise State player who served a six-game suspension for taking improper benefits worth $13,600 before and after he enrolled at the university.
Sophomore defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe returned to the No. 5 Broncos (6-0, 1-0) Wednesday and is eligible to play in Saturday's conference home opener against Air Force.
Tjong-A-Tjoe is one of three Broncos who were suspended at the start of the season pending an investigation into possible recruiting infractions.
Senior safety Cedric Febis was suspended for one game, the season opener against Georgia, while sophomore receiver Geraldo Boldewijn was held out of four games.
All three are from Amsterdam and moved to Boise, stayed with host families and enrolled in local high schools to play prep football in hopes of winning college scholarships.
In Tjong-A-Tjoe's case, NCAA investigators said he received benefits from a host family, which included Boise State boosters. The benefits ranged from meals and housing to school supplies, travel expenses and vacation money.
"The student-athlete must arrange for the repayment of these benefits," NCAA officials said in a statement released Wednesday. "The university withheld Tjong-A-Tjoe from competition for six games as a condition for him to be eligible to compete again."
Last season, Tjong-A-Tjoe played in 12 games and recorded 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and this year he was considered one of the key backups who could rotate in for the starters.
Although the Bronco line has anchored a defense that has dominated opponents so far this season, Tjong-A-Tjoe's return comes at an opportune time. Air Force and it's triple option offense has been hard to stop this season, and the Falcons (3-3, 0-2 Mountain West) rank third in the nation in rushing and 10th in total offense, averaging 506.3 yards per game.
"It will be as big of a challenge, without question, as we've seen this year," said Broncos coach Chris Petersen.
The case against the three Dutch players began on Aug. 23 when the NCAA called Boise State and informed officials of alleged violations. Boise State conducted the investigation.