Saturday, March 28

Un-Connon Opinions: UCLA-USC rivalry continues to be strong in spirit but not in sports

UCLA won the 2017-18 Crosstown Cup for the second time in a row last week. The Bruins have claimed the trophy in four of the last six academic years overall. (Amy Dixon/Assistant photo editor)

According to UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, the USC-UCLA rivalry is “one of the most unique and storied rivalries in all of collegiate athletics.”

The crosstown rivalry is nothing new to students and alumni who once flocked to games throughout the year, hoping their team would come out on top.

But nobody seems to really care anymore.

For the second year in a row, the Bruins have claimed the Crosstown Cup – the annual head-to-head competition between USC and UCLA across all Division I sports – by a score of 115-75. It is UCLA’s highest scoring total ever, and its third win in the last four years.

For winning the season series in a given sport, the school receives 10 points. If it’s a split, each school gets 5 points. It was a dominant year for UCLA, but the rivalry on the field seems more dead than ever.

Yes, there is an active rivalry between Bruins and Trojans everywhere. Whether they are alumni or fans, young or old, there has been – and always will be – extreme tension between the two.

But today, the rivalry seems to be more about the schools than the sports.

The two most popular NCAA sports are football and men’s basketball. UCLA has the most storied men’s basketball program in the nation and continues to make NCAA tournaments, reel in top recruiting classes and produce NBA talent.

USC, on the other hand, has made just two Sweet 16 appearances since the completion of the Berlin Wall.

On the gridiron, the Trojans are a premiere football program, claiming 11 national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners. They have owned the top recruiting class in the Pac-12 in each the last five years. They were the only team in the conference to sign a five-star recruit in 2018, and they signed four of them.

The last time the Bruins won a national championship in football, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs hadn’t been born yet. UCLA isn’t even USC’s biggest rival anymore; that title goes to Notre Dame.

The Bruins and Trojans face off in 17 other sports, but for better or worse, those aren’t the sports that drive high-profile rivalries. The other sports aren’t televised on ESPN every week. They don’t have sellout crowds. They’re popular in their own right, but on a wide scale, they are not as influential to students, fans or media coverage.

Things could change soon, though. The Bruins hired Chip Kelly as their new football coach in November. He carried Oregon to three consecutive Pac-12 titles and a Rose Bowl victory, sporting a 3-1 record against USC.

USC men’s basketball earned a commitment from five-star center Onyeka Okongwu from Chino Hills High School on Monday. Four-star power forward Isaiah Mobley picked USC just four days later. Experts were calling Okongwu a lock to join UCLA’s 2019 recruiting class for months, and Mobley had an offer from the Bruins as well.

There is still hope for die-hard fans of these bitter rivals. The rivalry can still be renewed, and there are signs that it could happen soon. But until USC men’s basketball proves relevant, and UCLA football regains its footing, the rest doesn’t really matter.

USC and UCLA are two of the top universities in the country, and being so close to one another means that there is always going to be a rivalry – both geographically and academically.

Congratulations to UCLA for winning the 2017-18 Crosstown Cup. It’s a nice trophy, and a hard one to win, too.

But for now, it’s simply a sidenote, an anecdote for Bruins to toss into the argument when they claim their school is better than USC.

For the matchup to continue to be what Guerrero called “one of the most unique and storied rivalries in all of collegiate athletics,” a lot more has to change.

Sports editor

Connon is the Sports editor and a reporter on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and cross country beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats. Connon also currently contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment. Connon is a third-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.

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