GILROY (CBS SF) — A group of 17 football players at a community college in Gilroy claim they were wrongly given the boot from the team over alleged recruiting violations.

The Gavilan College football team returned to the practice field on Friday. But they were missing 17 out-of-state players who were recently kicked off the team after being declared ineligible.

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“The concern is that the students were receiving housing and food that wasn’t paid for. That is an eligibility violation,” said Gavilan College spokesperson Jan Bernstein Chargin.

A photo taken during fall camp last month — about the time the players arrived from Florida, Texas and Oregon – showed a home in Hollister where all 17 of the players in question were living.

When KPIX 5 stopped by Friday, no one answered the door at the house. The school saID the players have all gone back home.

The players reportedly had their rent paid and were having some meals prepared for them by their landlady.

The situation came to light after the mother of one of the players complained to the college about the crowded conditions.

“That led our dean of athletics to take a look at it,” said Chargin. “We got legal counsel who brought in an outside investigator who confirmed that we did indeed have a problem.”

The players — most of whom are African American — complained to a local newspaper that the school made them feel like “thugs” by having extra police on hand when they were told to leave the team.

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Two assistant coaches were placed on paid administrative leave pending a school investigation.

Head Coach Mike Dovenberg was not disciplined.

“It’s not just football. You look at all sports,” said former Gavilan Coach Bob Garcia. “Yeah, there’s recruiting going on.”

Garcia says he recruited players from out of state back in the 1980’s.

He says California’s strong junior college football programs are a magnet to players across the country who hope to transfer into major colleges and eventually make the pros.

He said the players involved in the Gavilan scandal are the victims.

“It’s an opportunity for them. And here we’re trying to send them all back now,” said Garcia.

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Gavilan College says it offered each of the players a chance to stay at the school and continue their education. They all declined, apparently out of interest in playing football this season somewhere else.