UCLA-USC Rivalry Heats Up as Game Day Arrives, 55,000 Fans Expected

Published : Saturday, November 17, 2018 | 5:47 AM

Perhaps as much as comparing season scores and team stats going into today’s Rose Bowl game between UCLA and USC, fans will ramp up the long-running rivalry between the two teams – a rivalry among the more unusual in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I sports since the opposing teams’ campuses are only about 12 miles apart and their student bodies primarily hail from the same metropolitan area.

Today’s tailgating and gridiron match are the climax of “Beat ‘SC Week” festivities in Westwood and “Troy week” in University Park.

Earlier this week, UCLA authorities said the Bruin Bear statue was vandalized with red and yellow paint. Campus police said someone pried open the wooden box where the statue is kept and spray-painted its body and foundation.

Across town, USC traditionally wraps its Tommy Trojan statue, one of the school’s most famous landmarks, in duct tape before the game, to keep vandals off. Students also took turns guarding the statue.

Jim Gruettner, President of the Pasadena Quarterbacks club, recalls how the rivalry started.

“The rivalry basically, as I recall, got started back in the late 20s,” he said. “UCLA, which formerly had been known as the southern branch of the University of California, had moved from their original campus on Vermont in downtown LA to the new campus out in Westwood and that’s when they became known as UCLA. So the first game in that series, USC won that one 76 to nothing.”

At stake during the game is the Victory Bell, a vintage railroad locomotive bell that history said was donated by UCLA’s alumni association in 1939 and which UCLA’s cheerleaders initially rang after each UCLA point.

In 1941, a group of USC Trojan Knights, the university’s official Guardians of Tradition, supposedly infiltrated the Bruin rooting section at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and took the bell, hiding it in several locations for over a year. The next year, after the USC president threatened to cancel the rivalry game, student presidents of both schools signed an agreement to make the bell the game trophy.

The Victory Bell has since moved back and forth between the two campuses, with the winning team bringing it home until the other team wins.

“It’s a rather unique series,” Gruettner said. “It’s probably the most famous intra-city series in college football. I can’t think of any other two schools that share basically the same address.”

Darryl Dunn, the Rose Bowl’s general manager, enjoys both the game as well as the fun activities that come before and after the game. This time, he will be busy making sure the Rose Bowl is ready for the Big Game Saturday.

“It’s been around a long, long time in the Rose Bowl. We’re just very grateful and appreciative that we’re a part of it every other year having the cross-town matchup here at our stadium,” Dunn said. “I will say the pageantry and the passion and the emotion and the intensity are all things that everybody looks forward to. It’s such a great, great, great tradition.”

Rose Bowl staff will not only be busy with what’s happening at the game field but also with tailgating events at the stadium’s parking lot.

“The tailgating is a big part of this event, a real big part of it,” Dunn said. “But you’ll go in and you’ll see brothers or a husband and wife with one wearing UCLA jersey and the other a USC jersey. They have different rooting interests, but they still have a common bond. Obviously, at the end of the day, it’s a great football game.”

The Pasadena Police Department is readying for the rivalry, too.

“We’re looking at an anticipated attendance of 55,000 for tomorrow,” Pasadena police Lt. Sean Dawkins said. “It’s also usually typical that we see more, not only just more people generally with the crowd but also more students from both schools because it’s a cross-town rivalry. It does definitely change our planning. We have a couple more meetings than typical.”

Days before the game, the police department called a meeting among all stakeholders – Rose Bowl staff, students, staff, police departments, fire departments, and other city departments. Some of those stakeholders usually meet as well with both UCLA and USC game management staff, as well as bandleaders of both schools, to make sure everything goes well despite the intense rivalry.

During the traditional game, CHP and LAPD personnel are typically involved, with their units escorting team buses on the way in and out of the Rose Bowl.

Dawkins said the Pasadena Police Department has typically seen more arrests than usual during a UCLA-USC game compared with other college football games at the Rose Bowl.

This year’s USC vs. UCLA game will kick off Saturday, November 17, 12:30 p.m. at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a week after the Bruins fell to Arizona State, 31-28, and the Trojans lost to the Cal Golden Bears, 15-14.

The Bruins have lost three in a row. Before Saturday’s loss to Arizona, UCLA had lost to Utah at the Rose Bowl, 41-10, and then to Oregon State, 42-21.

Cal’s win Sunday snapped a 14-game losing streak against the Trojans. USC now stands 5-5 in the Pac-12 Conference, while UCLA stands 2-8.

For more details about the game click here.


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