With a well-known rivalry that spans across Los Angeles and even further beyond, the classic USC vs. UCLA football has fans crowding the bleachers game after game. There exists only a mere 12 miles between the famous University of California Los Angeles Bruins and University of Southern California Trojans. The Rose Bowl has been home to the Bruins since 1982 and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has housed the Trojans since the beginning. With such a close proximity, it’s easy for fans to clash, making this rivalry one of the most intense and most notably talked about in the United States.
A College Game Unlike Any Other
More NFL players than any other university (with the exception of Notre Dame) have been birthed from USC’s football program. In addition, the program is also amongst the all-time leaders in national championships, All-Americans, and Heisman winners. On the other hand, UCLA has won more basketball championships and sent second most players to NBA (with the exception of Kentucky being in the lead).
UCLA has the most NCAA Division I-sanctioned team championships at 112 and USC has the third most NCAA Division I-sanctioned team championships at 100. The winner of the football game wins or shares the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) title in football, which was established in 1916. Since then, USC has won or shared 37 conference titles and UCLA has won or shared 17 titles. Since the 1959 season, through the 2007 season, the schools have won or shared 33 of the 48 conference titles. More stats to consider include USC’s attendance at the Rose Bowl 21 times with eight shared championships and won championships 17 times. Likewise, UCLA has gone to the Rose Bowl 8 times, shared 5 championships, and won 6 championships outright.
History in the Making
The history behind the two teams’ rivalry dates back to when Howard Jones, American football coach, began a rivalry with Notre dame and UCLA joined the Pacific Coast Conference in 1929. USC began dominating early games until UCLA finally established itself. It wasn’t until star plays Kenny Washington, Jackie Robinson, and Bob Waterfield let UCLA become competitive in the late 1930s. Hall of Fame Coach Henry “Red” Sanders really allowed UCLA to dominant the program in the 1950s with their first and only National Championship of 1954. After Sanders died of an unfortunate heart attack, new head coach John McKay took over the struggling USC program where he remains to this day as a Hall of Fame Coach. During McKay’s tenure, the undefeatable USC Trojans won 8 conference titles, 5 Rose Bowls, produced two Heisman Trophy winners, and won three national championships. Talk about a major win! Between 1960 and 1975, the record between the Bruins was tough against UCLA from a 10-5-1 record. Rising in status, the two schools dominated as top powers of the West Coast with USC usually taking the lead and UCLA barreling hard after.
With the two powers constantly competing, it was no surprise that between the years of 1966 to 1980, either UCLA or USC played in all 12 Rose Bowls. During the 1990s, UCLA won an 8-game streak against their rival USC. Their string ended in 1999 only to make room for the Trojans’ turn with a 7 win streak (2 are now vacated which leaves it at 5). These wins were mainly a result from the new coach Pete Carroll during 2000. Carroll led the Trojans to victory between the 2001-2009 seasons with only one game being won by UCLA. May titles have been in reference to the football games including: “The Los Angeles City Championship,” or “The Crosstown Showdown,” “The Battle of L.A. or Crosstown rivalry.” Probably the most well known name of the game is USC-UCLA or vice versa as (UCLA-USC)
Cheering Crowds and Fanfare Galore
Of course as a college football team, it’s only necessary to expect a vibrancy of school spirit. The week before the game at UCLA is known as “Beat ‘SC Week” or “Blue and Gold Week” whereas at USC it’s known as “Troy Week” or “Conquest.” Both schools host major activities such as parades, bonfires, rallies, live entertainment, and tailgating. These events aim at uniting athletics, academics, school spirit, and traditions amongst the students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Like all school rivalries, there is a bit of mischief that occurs as well. To prevent vandalism, both schools have taken measures. The USC wraps its “Trojan Shrine” (better known as “Tommy Trojan”) with bubble wrap and duct tape and UCLA covers its Bruin Bear statute with tarp labeled “THE BRUIN BEAR IS HIBERNATING. BEAT ‘SC.” Along with a $5,000 wooden puzzle box. The “Bruin Bear Security Force” and “USC Trojan Knights” guard their beloved statues.
For the teams competing, the winners are awarded the Victory Bell. The history behind this esteemed brass prize is that it was from an old Southern Pacific railroad locomotive given to the UCLA student body by its Alumni Association in 1939. This icon stood as a symbol for their victory until the USC Trojan Knights stole it two years later, sending them on a wild game of hide-and-seek and a prank war ensued until the two schools agreed the bell would serve as a trophy of the annual UCLA-USC football game. Depending on which school harbors the bell, they paint it either red or blue.
-By Bonnie Wong
USC and UCLA will play this season on November 28th, 2015 at the Coliseum.