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Pranks of the past, present

By Rajan Menghani

Nov. 30, 2005 9:00 p.m.

Since the school was founded in 1919, UCLA has been locked in
one of the fiercest college rivalries in the country. The rivalry
is never more evident than when the time comes for the battle for
the Victory Bell, the annual award given to the winner of the
football game between the two schools. This year, students from
both campuses feel the spirit of the rivalry more intensely than
ever. This fervor often incites students to pull pranks on the
opposing school, whether it involves UCLA students pouring blue
paint over the Tommy Trojan statue or USC students burning
“USC” into the lawns on the UCLA campus. In recent
years, however, both universities have adopted a zero-tolerance
policy for mischief and have clamped down on any incidents.
Consequently, students feel less involved in the rivalry than they
once did. “This is a different era,” said John
Sandbrook, special assistant to the executive dean of the UCLA
College. “The rivalry was 10 times more intense than it is
now.” This is because only one team from the Pacific Coast
Conference was allowed to attend a bowl game, and usually the game
between the Bruins and the Trojans decided that position.
Furthermore, both the Bruins and the Trojans used to play their
home games at the Coliseum. Nowadays, multiple Pac-10 teams can
play in the postseason. The Bruins and Trojans also play their home
games in different stadiums. The animosity between the two schools
may have subsided, but the success of this year’s teams has
elevated the game’s significance. The series of pranks and
retaliations initially began after the 1941 match between UCLA and
Washington State. A band of six Trojans stole the key to the UCLA
Rally Committee’s truck while the UCLA Victory Bell was being
loaded into it. The Trojan thieves were then able to drive away
with what was rightfully Bruin property. USC students hid the bell
for a whole year in various locations. At one point, it was
allegedly concealed in a haystack. Eventually, the undergraduate
presidents of both universities met and agreed that the winner of
the annual football match would be allowed to keep the Victory Bell
for one year and paint it in the school colors. Since then, there
have been numerous pranks. Among the most memorable incidents was
in 1958, when a group of Bruins plotted to drop manure on the Tommy
Trojan statue. There were about 100 USC students guarding the
statue, so the Bruin faithful rented a helicopter to complete the
prank. In 1962, the Bruin KELPS managed to foil a prank attempted
by the Trojans. The KELPS were a spirit organization with the sole
purpose of carrying out pranks against USC, and Trojan students had
come to UCLA to distribute fliers degrading the KELPS. The KELPS
retaliated by shaving one letter of “UCLA” onto each of
the heads of the Trojan pranksters. The Trojans were subsequently
painted blue, fed breakfast, and tied to a flagpole before the
police rescued them. The last major trick played against UCLA was
in 1989, when USC students released hundreds of crickets into
Powell Library during finals week. The Trojan pranksters posted
signs on the wall that read, “Hope you enjoy studying today,
Bruins. USC beat UCLA. Signed, the Trojan boys.” After 1989,
there has been a decline in the frequency of pranks, partially due
to the painstaking efforts of the Community Service Officers, the
university police and the Undergraduate Students Association
Council. USAC has established a special task force to guard the
Bruin Bear every night during the rivalry week. This may have been
in response to the incidents when Trojans painted the Bruin Bear
red or poured manure over it. Every year, to prevent such incidents
from recurring, the Bruin Bear goes into “hibernation”
““ the university protects it with blue tarps. Some students
think the pranks should be allowed because they are an integral
part of the rivalry. “Pulling pranks allow people to show
their school spirit,” said Suzie Sandoval, a third-year
biochemistry student. Others think that the pranks must be stopped.
“Pranks just encourage hatred,” said third-year Melissa
Bahmanpour. “They only make an enemy out of the other
school.” Even though pranks may engender animosity between
the two crosstown rivals, people still believe they make the
rivalry more exciting, partially because they are humorous and
partially because it is impossible to predict when or where they
will happen.

BEAT ‘SC BONFIRE: The Beat ‘SC
bonfire and rally takes place at 8 p.m. at Wilson Plaza tonight.
Members of the Bruin football team and the UCLA spirit team will be
in attendance, and the honorary grand marshall of the event is UCLA
men’s volleyball coach Al Scates. The bonfire and parade will
also feature dozens of student-built floats, marching groups,
prominent alumni guests and celebrity dignitaries. They will parade
through Westwood and end the night in Wilson Plaza, where the
bonfire will take place.

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