Thursday, September 21

UCLA-USC rivalry tradition still running strong

USC's Tommy Trojan statue is covered in duct tape to shield it from rivalry pranks.

USC's Tommy Trojan statue is covered in duct tape to shield it from rivalry pranks. TROJAN-HATERS CLUB

Meggan McGrath’s connection to UCLA dates back to November 1989 when her parents brought her home as a newborn from the hospital.

Even before returning home with the new baby, the family made a quick stop at the Central Ticket Office to pick up passes for the upcoming football game against USC.

McGrath, now chairman of Rally Committee, has carried on the school spirit passed down from her parents, who met in Rally Committee as students themselves. McGrath said she grew up hearing stories of pranks against Tommy Trojan and camping out overnight for the best tailgate spot at the games against USC.

This early exposure to UCLA rivalry traditions was an important part of what drew her to the university, McGrath said. From car smashes to parades, pranks and tailgating, the list of traditions surrounding the annual UCLA-USC football game is long.

For Bruins of all ages, the rivalry against USC has played an important role in uniting a large student body, building school spirit and even bringing different generations together.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind rivalry,” said Cassi Porter, Student Alumni Association’s Blue and Gold Week executive director. “I’ve heard crazy stories about people going over (to USC) and throwing blue and gold glitter around campus and doing things to Tommy Trojan. It’s all in good fun.”

Third-generation Bruin and 1972 alumnus Scott Fellows said he also witnessed a number of wild pranks during his time at UCLA, including finding a rogue USC fan in Westwood.

“Some guy from ‘SC was on the street (in Westwood) and he was screaming at the tops of his lungs and everyone showed up to find this guy. He was “¦ tied to a light post “¦ (and) covered in blue and gold paint,” Fellows said.

Though greater liability has made pranks more difficult and risky, students have found plenty of other outlets for lingering competitive spirit. Both the Rally Committee and the Daily Bruin staff have annual flag football games with their counterparts, and the Undergraduate Student Association Council’s General Representative 1 has orchestrated comedy competitions between the two universities.

“No matter what, students are going to care about (the UCLA-USC) game,” said former Blue and Gold Week Executive Director Jennifer Middleton about the shift from pranks to more structured rivalry activities. “They come really excited to be a part of this tradition of rivalry, and it takes different forms over the years.”

There are certain traditions that remain constant over the years, however. The UCLA Victory Bell, which had been gifted to the university by the Alumni Association, was stolen by a group of USC students in 1941. The bell was finally returned to UCLA in 1942, but on the condition that it become a permanent game trophy.

Since then, the bell is awarded each year to the school that wins the annual football game. There are very specific rules governing the hand-off of the bell to prevent either university from stealing it again, McGrath said.

Students at UCLA and USC also have a long-standing tradition of attempting to vandalize the statues of one another’s mascots, Tommy Trojan and the Bruin Bear. One way in which UCLA has attempted to redirect some of this student enthusiasm is through the Bruin Bear Security Force.

Students who join the security force spend the night camping out in front of the Bruin Bear statue and are provided with entertainment and spirit activities and snacks by various campus organizations, including USAC and SAA.

“The Bruin Bear Security Force is really an opportunity to allow students to get involved in this friendly school rivalry in a safe way,” said General Representative Thach Nguyen. His office is helping organize this year’s security force, who will be treated to a carnival-themed event that includes root beer pong tournaments, blue and gold tie-dying, and performances by a number of student dance and a cappella groups.

In addition to the campus activities for current students, many alumni also maintain close ties to their alma mater and carry on rivalry traditions. The bonfire and rally night is a much-loved rivalry tradition for Bruins, and Porter said that this year SAA sent out personal Bruinvites by e-mail to alumni and offered them a special VIP seating pass for the event.

“It’s a great way for them to come back to campus and be thrown into the UCLA spirit “¦ coming with their families and remembering why they love UCLA; rekindling that kind of rivalry spirit with thousands of Bruins around,” she said.

Fellows, who attended his first UCLA-USC game in 1954 as a young boy, decided after joining the South Bay Bruins Alumni Chapter to turn one of his favorite rivalry traditions into a force for good. After seeing the spirit and generosity of alumni at UCLA football games, he was inspired and began organizing tailgating parties as a platform for raising money for student scholarships.

“My goal all along was to get donations and to (give the alumni donors) some bang for your buck. They believe in the mission of raising money for scholarships and the idea of a great party,” Fellows said.

No matter how Bruins choose to participate in this long-standing crosstown rivalry, there is no doubt that the rivalry is still going strong and plays an important part in building school spirit.

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