Dark rain clouds overhead did not stop UCLA Bruins from letting their school spirit burn bright at the Beat ‘SC bonfire Thursday night.
For the first time in several years, UCLA has a chance to win the football game against crosstown rival University of Southern California. About 2,500 Bruin fans flocked to the bonfire to support their team at the annual Beat ‘SC bonfire. Saturday’s game will decide the winner of the Pac-12 South.
“I just want to ask one thing personally: that y’all get there early (on Saturday) and let’s paint this Rose Bowl blue, man. We’re bringing it back this year,” said redshirt senior safety Andrew Abbott.
Several senior UCLA football players thanked Bruin fans for their support during the season and expressed hope about the outcome of the game, leading chants to rile up the crowd.
Jacqueline Espinoza, a third-year political science and Chicana/o studies student, said she felt the football players’ enthusiasm was different than in past years.
“This year, the atmosphere here is definitely different,” Espinoza said. “We haven’t won since 2006. Now we actually have a chance.”
A structure stood in the middle of Wilson Plaza, made of wooden signs supporting a UCLA victory over USC.
A cappella groups Random Voices and Bruin Harmony customized lyrics to popular songs to fit the spirit of rivalry week. Dance groups NSU Modern and Samahang Modern, in addition to UCLA Kyodo Taiko drumming, performed pieces as well.
Organizers also added a tribute to UCLA Olympic athletes and coaches from the 2012 London games to this year’s event, said Laura Mitchell, a member of the Student Alumni Association and a fourth-year history student.
Olympic decathlete, UCLA alumnus and athletic department adviser Rafer Johnson addressed the crowd. Johnson lit the torch for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and served as student body president during his time at UCLA. He said he played basketball under coach John Wooden for three years ““ and never lost to USC.
“Saturday, USC goes down,” Johnson said with a grin.
Patches of light rain throughout the event did not seem to dampen the spirit of the crowd.
“This is very well done, probably one of the best I’ve been to,” said Jim Schweitzer, a UCLA alumnus who graduated in 1978, and occasionally attends the bonfires. Schweitzer said he collects statistics for the Bruin football team and plans to be at the game on Saturday. “We’re going to win. I’m supremely confident,” he said.
Others attended the bonfire for the first time. Crista Oakley-Havens, a first-year physiological sciences student, said she was very excited about attending her first rivalry football game on Saturday.
“I’m always up for showing my school spirit,” Oakley-Havens said, as she made her way from the bonfire to Pauley Pavilion to catch the UCLA basketball game.
UCLA football coach Jim Mora took to the stage at the end of the performance portion of the night to thank supporters and express confidence in UCLA’s victory at Saturday’s game before giving firefighters the go-ahead to set the 30-foot tall wooden structure on fire.
“We’ll take care of the field, you take care of the stands,” Mora said.
Contributing reports by Kassy Cho, Bruin reporter.