At least two players in the locker room weren't smiling at the end of today's OTA, but it wasn't because of anything that happened on the Giants' practice field.
Instead, wide receiver Steve Smith and cornerback Terrell Thomas were mourning the fate of their alma mater, USC, at which the NCAA threw the book, the kitchen sink, and the rest of the house for repeated and flagrant rules violations in 2004-05. Saints running back Reggie Bush was at the center of that investigation for accepting illegal payments of cash and gifts.
The NCAA put the Trojans on four years probation, the first two of which will include a bowl ban. They also docked the school 30 scholarships, and the BCS has indicated it will vacate the national championship the Trojans won in the 2004 season.
"I was surprised," Thomas said when apprised of the penalties, which could marginalize the mighty program for years after their probation ends. "It's four, five years later, and USC's always done a great job maintaining the talent level."
Thomas, a reserve cornerback on that championship team, came into the locker room this morning to a flurry of abuse from teammates.
"People were making jokes, saying the repo man was coming to get my rings, so I should lock them up," Thomas said.
But then he turned serious.
"It's unfortunate, especially about the scholarships," he said. "That's 30 kids who aren't going to go to USC."
That team's coach, Pete Carroll, is now the head coach of the Seahawks. Neither Thomas nor Smith had spoken to him as yet.
Smith, who had one of his best games of his college career in that Orange Bowl win against Oklahoma, said no matter what the BCS does, the Trojans won that championship with no outside help.
"We still went out and won it," said Smith, whose seven catches for 113 yards highlighted that 55-19 pounding. "It just kind of sucks because that was one of my best games as a Trojan. If they take away the record books, I don't want some kid who is looking 10 years from now to not see my name on it.
"But they can't take my ring away. They can't take the tape away. They can't take my memories away."
The NCAA said it will allow any scholarship players on the roster to transfer anywhere without serving the one-year waiting period to play again. That could have a positive affect on Smith's brother, linebacker Malcolm Smith.
"I just told him to stay focused and get ready for the NFL," Smith said.
The 30 lost scholarships could be deadly.
"I think it hurts," he said. "If I was a kid I don't know if I'd really want to go to USC, because you're not bowl eligible. And since this came down people are going to be looking at you under a microscope even more now."
Thomas bristled at the thought that people would think cash, cars, and travel accommodations helped that Trojan squad beat the Sooners, or any other team that year.
"We didn't lose the National Championship," Thomas said. "Those so-called extra benefits didn't win those games. The work we put in on the field during the week won those games."
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