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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLADance Disassembled: Seeing Beyond the Curtain

Spirit of past & present

By Theresa Avila

Sept. 30, 2010 1:34 a.m.

The evolution of UCLA spirit can be seen in the transition of the drum major uniform. John Vaughn’s 1928 uniform is contrasted with the current style as of 2007.

ucla bruin marching band

The sense of school spirit and pride at UCLA has grown, dipped and risen over time. Originally known as The Southern Branch of UC Berkeley, UCLA has garnered a reputation for being the best of the best, as several traditions will attest to.

While the debate surrounding academic prestige and national rankings is still up in the air, when it comes down to it, UCLA’s fans are all about the spirit. And no matter whether the football team is enjoying a good season or trudging through a lackluster one, there are always plenty of people tailgating at every game, sometimes with painted faces, and cheering from the stands.

What remains clear is that. over generations, new spirit organizations have sprung up, faded into memory and come alive again. Traditions are kept going by the ever-changing student population and with each new year, Bruins everywhere can look forward to the host of organizations whose sole aim is to motivate the fans and get spirit fingers in the air.

UCLA Bruin Marching Band

This group of UCLA students has a sound and quick pace that sets them apart from others every time they step onto the field at the Rose Bowl. The UCLA Bruin Marching Band might not be running plays, but the band is a sight to see during football halftime shows at the Rose Bowl.

Now dressed in bold gold-and-blue military-inspired uniforms, the band didn’t receive a budget for uniforms and a musical director until 1928.

Originally conceived as a 50-piece ROTC pep band in 1925, it has now grown to 250 members, traveled to away games, several countries and, in 1993, was the recipient of the Louis B. Sudler Trophy for its continuous innovation in marching and performance.

Basically, it’s earned its way into the canon of American collegiate culture.

Sports fans probably are accustomed to the band’s traditional repertoire of “Strike Up the Band” and “Sons of Westwood,” but they might also recognize some songs from the radio, including songs from Muse and Usher.

Gordon Henderson, director of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, said that along with the cheerleaders, it’s the band’s duty to create an atmosphere of excitement among the fans during the good and bad seasons.

“We’re kind of there for the team and for the crowd regardless of the outcome,” Henderson said.

The Den

Serving as UCLA’s official student fan group, The Den is for any hard-core UCLA sports fan. Members populate the student section at home and away games and are known for their undying enthusiasm for all UCLA sports teams, not just basketball and football.

“We try to spread that (enthusiasm) to everyone else so that they get pumped up as well,” said Elan Bigknife, president of The Den.

In order to inform and pump up the fans, members of The Den are responsible for publishing a small newsletter with pre-game stats and information on the opposing team.

Still, school spirit, Bigknife said, has dropped in recent years, something he attributed to the way in which ticket packages are sold and to students’ high expectations. Students, he said, have come to expect the basketball team to make it to every Final Four.

He said Den members have been trying to reverse the declining school spirit by reminding students that going to games is about supporting the home team.

“We still are good, we just aren’t Final Four good ““ which is ridiculously good,” Bigknife said.

UCLA Rally Committee & Spirit Squad

If you’ve ever wondered who the people at football and basketball games cheering like crazy, leading the 8-claps and doing flips on the floor are, you’ve probably seen the Spirit Squad in action.

Composed of the cheer squad, the dance team and yell crew, the squad is always present at basketball and football games. Along with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, it’s the most recognizable and constant supporters at games.

The Rally Committee is responsible for building the large bonfire on campus during Blue and Gold Week, as well as protecting the Victory Bell when it’s in UCLA’s possession. It is also by far the oldest spirit organization on campus, with 86 years of experience in leading cheers and organizing what is probably its biggest claim to fame: the famous UCLA card stunts.

Starting in 1925, Rally Committee members would organize thousands of students to flip hand-held cards during halftime in a football game. Organizers later found that they could use colored light bulbs to create magnificent shows at night.

One memorable game stunt, performed at the 1953 season opener in the Coliseum, was a panorama of the world’s most famous cities with cards creating a picture of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and others as students held flashlights behind colored cards. UCLA remains one of 10 universities in the nation that continue to organize card stunts. Though difficult to organize, the card stunts are a tradition that continues at UCLA, albeit on a smaller scale.

UCLA Basketball ““ “Frisbee’s Cheer”

A regular staple at UCLA basketball games, “Frisbee’s Cheer” got its start in the 1970s, in the years following John Wooden’s retirement as the men’s basketball coach. School spirit was down and student attendance at games was also on the decline. It was a great moment for a new cheer to pump up the fans. Enter on cue Lawrence H. “Frisbee” Davis, a true Bruin sports fan, who, if necessary, would camp out for every home basketball game and pass the time playing Frisbee.

Even so, it was while attending a water polo match that he got the idea for a cheer. He noticed a call-and-response song, which he then tweaked for the basketball team. The cheer begins with the question, “Is this a basketball?” and is followed by a series of questions naming the court, as well as the winning and losing teams.

“It’s a fun thing without being demeaning and without being cruel to the other team,” Davis said.

What began as a simple cheer between “Frisbee” and his friends soon grew to include the entire student body section, at the time filling almost 20 percent of the seats in Pauley Pavilion.

“(With) as many as 10,000 people doing it at once, it sounds great,” he said. “It really helps your team.”

Currently, members of The Den organize which of its members will recite the cheer at the beginning of each basketball game. While “Frisbee” no longer leads the cheers, he’s glad that the tradition has been passed on to the students.

“It’s nice to see it done,” he said. “(Though) they can’t ever get it as loud as I could.”

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Theresa Avila
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