FORT SMITH, Ark. — The seventh-ranked University of Arkansas-Fort Smith women’s basketball team will forfeit 22 games after the athletic department recently discovered an eligibility rules violation.

The action comes in response to a random audit by the NJCAA, which indicated that the Lady Lions had played an ineligible player in 22 of their 25 games this season. As a result of the athletic department’s findings, UA-Fort Smith has reported its violation to the NJCAA and will forfeit those games.

As a result of the forfeits, the Lady Lions’ season record is 3-22 overall and 1-3 in the Bi-State Conference East Division entering Thursday’s Bi-State Conference East Division game against the Northeastern A&M Lady Norse.

“I would like to apologize to (UA Fort Smith Chancellor) Dr. (Paul) Beran, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, the players and community for the findings of this audit,” UA-Fort Smith women’s coach Louis Whorton said in a release that appeared on the school’s website. “As women’s head basketball coach, I am responsible for crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is. This was a regrettable oversight, and everyone can be assured that it will never happen again.”

UA-Fort Smith athletic director Dustin Smith said there was no intent to circumvent NJCAA rules and that the violation was “an oversight” that occurred simply because of “human error.”

“The results of the audit have shown us that we need to put another check and balance into our eligibility system to ensure that a violation such as this will never happen again,” Smith said in the release “There was no intent by anyone associated with the athletic program or the university to knowingly violate a NJCAA rule.

“We conduct ourselves and this program with the utmost integrity. We deeply regret and sincerely apologize that this violation has occurred. As a result, we will learn from and put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

With the athletic program’s honesty and cooperation with the NJCAA, the Lady Lions will still be able to finish the season and compete for the NJCAA Region II tournament championship.