FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Kentucky State suspended 13 women's basketball players after an accusation $12,000 in merchandise was taken from a sporting goods store.

``If any players are involved, they will lose their scholarships,'' athletics director Derrick Ramsey said Thursday. Ramsey said Friday he would like to keep the students enrolled, but said he would understand if some transferred.

No charges have been filed against the 13 and Ramsey said he hoped to avoid criminal allegations.

But Scott Myers, director of loss prevention for Hibbett Sports, said charges probably will be filed. Some merchandise has been recovered, he said.

``It was a bad judgment on these kids' part and I think the penalty is harsh enough,'' Ramsey said Friday.

Myers said the loss was discovered during routine investigations and occurred during a three-month period. Myers said an employee was involved.

Nine of the players were ``accused of theft'' and the others were suspended ``for receiving stolen items,'' Kentucky State spokeswoman Jacqueline Bingham told The State Journal.

Bingham said a student working at Hibbett Sports allowed players ``to pilfer items from the store over an eight-week period.'' The student, whose name was not released, was a friend of the team members, Bingham said.

Store personnel contacted women's basketball coach Carol Washington-Clark about the alleged crime, and she informed Ramsey.

The Thorobrettes returned five starters from an 18-9 team that won the West Region of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and was a runner-up for the conference championship.

Ramsey said the university will field a team and will recruit from among the students on campus.

``We've got to go on with the season,'' he said. ``This can't drag on.''

The team is scheduled to begin its season Nov. 19 at the West Florida Tournament in Pensacola.