UCLA-USC rivalry week kicked off Sunday night with university officials and students taking steps to protect the Bruin Bear and the newly unveiled John Wooden statue. UCLA will host several events this week promoting the rivalry with USC, including the “Beat ‘SC Bonfire and Rally.”
An integral part of rivalry week, however, happens behind the scenes. Every year, students and the university take extra security measures to protect campus landmarks from possible pranks by USC students.
University police generally increase patrol around the Bruin Bear and Pauley Pavilion during rivalry week, police have said.
On Tuesday morning, the university erected a black wall ““ matching that of the Bruin Bear ““ around the John Wooden statue in front of Pauley Pavilion, extending protection to the newest landmark on campus.
University staff put the protective structures in place for both statues, said Nick Ammazzalorso, executive director of athletic communications, in an email statement.
“The bear is always covered and with Coach, we chose to err on the side of caution,” he said in the email.
Many students said they were largely unaware the statue was going to be boarded up this year, but said they did think it needed to be protected.
Jeff Mudd, a UCLA alumnus taking a break from practicing Hacky Sack in front of Pauley Pavilion, said he did not know the university would be covering the Wooden statue, but agreed with the decision to protect it.
“Unfortunately, I personally think USC students would degrade the Coach,” Mudd said. “A mascot is one thing, but a legend? That’s just wrong.”
The Bruin Bear Security Force, a group of students whose responsibilities have been extended this year to protecting the Wooden statue, is charged with protecting UCLA’s landmarks during the week leading up to the football game against USC.
Jayna Patel, Spirit Week chair for the Rally Committee, is heading the security force’s efforts this year. Consisting of student volunteers and members of the Spirit Week Committee, the security force patrols areas on campus, ranging from the Bruin Bear to the Inverted Fountain, Patel said.
Students bundled up with their scarves, blankets and beanies, and set up their headquarters near the hibernating Bruin Bear Sunday night, pitching tents and trying to keep warm.
Patel said she hopes with the addition of the Wooden statue, more people will be involved this year in the protection of UCLA’s landmarks.
“We’re really trying to get more people involved this year. This is a big step toward making the Bruin Bear Security Force more of an event,” Patel said.
She said student groups from the Hill, fraternities and groups like Project Literacy are all expected to participate this week.
Members of Theta Xi fraternity came out to stand guard at the John Wooden statue Monday night.
Taylor Bazley, a third-year political science student, gathered some of his fraternity brothers and set up camp at the feet of the new memorial. “We weren’t signed up for today, but we really wanted to come out and do it,” Bazley said. “Protecting the Bear, and now the Wooden statue, is one of those UCLA bucket list things every student should do.”
This could be an important year for the UCLA-USC rivalry ““ the outcome of Saturday’s game will decide who tops the Pac-12 South.
With this in mind, the Security Force is on high alert for attacks from the rival Trojans, Patel said.
By the middle of this year’s rivalry week, there have already been several Trojan sightings and at least one prank .
On Sunday night, the first day of patrol for the Bruin Bear Security Force, there was a minor altercation between the security force and several USC students, said Katt Lynyak, a second-year psychology student who was at the Bear when the men arrived.
Around 3:30 a.m., six or seven young men dressed head-to-toe in USC attire arrived at the Bear and started asking questions, Lynyak said.
“They seemed like they wanted to do something (to the Bear). They were asking if they could saw through the metal frame and wanted to know if there was a top to the Bear’s covering,” Lynyak said. Once the USC students started taking pictures, Lynyak said, the force asked the men to leave and escorted them off campus.
By Monday morning, the Trojans made their presence known on UCLA’s campus when a jogger discovered that a UCLA plaque near an entrance to campus on Sunset Boulevard was vandalized to read “USC.”
Lynyak, filling in for Patel as head of the security force Monday night, said the sign and surrounding area of campus falls outside their usual patrol route.
“That part of North Campus is just too far north for us to patrol,” Lynyak said. “It seemed like (the USC students) were just desperate.”
The Bruin Bear Security Force will continue to camp out every night this week, making sure the Trojans are kept at bay.
“We’re more suspicious this year,” said Karyn Lee, a second-year chemical engineering student and two-year veteran of the Security Force. “But we don’t necessarily expect anything serious. We’re just expecting to have fun out here.”