USC vs. UCLA | 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Rivalry

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The USC vs. UCLA rivalry is an American college football rivalry most often attributed to their close proximity and powerhouse football teams. The rivalry is considered amongst the worst (or best) in the country, with a whole week coined “Rivalry Week” leading up to the big game. Other than overwhelmingly creative pranks, like USC releasing hoards of crickets in a UCLA library during finals week or UCLA renting a helicopter to dump manure on USC’s campus, there’s more to rivalry week than meets the eye. Here are 15 things that you didn’t know happens at these colleges as they await the big game. 

1. They play for a trophy.

In 1941, USC students stole a 295-pound bell from UCLA and moved it around the LA area, taunting them for over a year. The war between USC and UCLA began and the schools started a series of elaborate pranks until the USC president threated to cancel the rivalry unless it stopped. They reached a compromise and in November 1942, the student body presidents signed an agreement that the bell would be used as a trophy for the football game and renamed it the Victory Bell.

2. The statues take most of the heat.

In 2009, USC students covered the Bruin Bear in red and yellow paint, resulting in a $20,000 restoration fee. One year, a band of Bruins cut off Tommy’s sword and reattached it so it was sticking out of an unfortunate location for Tommy.

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3. The students (and faculty) take it real serious.

Since the incident in 2009, Bruin the bear is kept under tight security and goes “into hibernation” and encased in a giant, $5,000 box during rivalry week. Even so, UCLA students take no risks. A group called the Bruin Bear Security Force guard the bear in the days leading up to the game day and night.

Tommy the Trojan is bubble wrapped and completely covered in duct tape. A group that calls themselves the Trojan Knights guards the statue, suspicious of any persons who dare approach the protected statue.

4. The pranks used to be better.

In 1958, a group of UCLA students rented a helicopter and dumped manure onto the USC campus. The plan partially backfired, however, as wind from the helicopter’s blade ended up sending loads of manure back inside the chopper.

In 1989, USC patriots painted 30,000 crickets red and gold and released them in a UCLA library during finals week.

5. They get real catty.

In 2012, UCLA banned the USC Drum Major from stabbing the 50-yard line in his traditional pre-game march. Apparently stabbing the field felt disrespectful on the UCLA home field, despite the tradition continuing at every other school field. That year, UCLA defeated USC 38-28.

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6. They go under cover.

In 1957, USC students posed as UCLA students and joined the rally committee. Before the game, they switched out the cards that are placed in the student section to read USC. For the entire eight-minute card trick presentation, the USC flashed in the corner.

The next year, some USC students snuck into the print shop where the Daily Bruin was printed and created a fake edition of the newspaper. They kidnapped the truck driver who was delivering the real editions and replaced them with the fakes. In the paper USC students quoted UCLA coach George Dickerson saying “I can’t see any hope for our team.”

7. They sometimes get caught.

In 1962, five Trojan Knights came to the UCLA campus to pull a prank, but were caught by a UCLA group called the Kelps (Knights Earls Lord Potentates Sultans). The Kelps shaved UCLA on the heads of the knights, shaved their eyebrows, painted their faces blue and then tied them to a flagpole for a pep rally.

In 1979, however, LAPD caught a group of UCLA students trying to saw off Tommy the Trojan’s head. They were temporarily held for vandalism.

8. They literally bleed hatred.

USC and UCLA also host a rivalry blood drive. The school with the most units of blood donated by the end of the week wins a trophy during halftime. To promote this, UCLA tells students they need to “get the red out” before the big game.

9. They even prank each other on the field.

In 1986, UCLA ran a play where the quarterback faked a knee, which would normally end the play, and then threw a long pass into the end zone. They called it the “Hail Mary In Your Face.” UCLA won 45-25.

10. They refuse to be visitors in their own city.

Before UCLA had the Rose Bowl, UCLA and USC used to share the Coliseum and wore their home colors during the rivalry game. In 2008 Rick Neuheisel and Pete Carrol revived the tradition, so each team again wears their home jerseys when playing the other.

Photo by Carlos Bachi (Getty Images)

11. The US armed forces get involved.

The ROTC programs play flag football on the Friday before the big game. This competition, called the Blood Bowl, kicks off rivalry week.

Photo by Alex Moores (Getty Images)

12. The police are sometimes involved too, but they aren’t happy about it.

In 1966, UCLA rioted after USC was chosen over UCLA to play in the Rose Bowl, despite UCLA having a higher standing. Students formed a mob in Westwood and marched onto the 405 Freeway and stopped traffic for three hours on Westwood Boulevard. At one point, the mob stopped a car with a USC sticker and ripped the wires out of the engine.

13. The winner gets two trophies.

In 2001, the Southern California Lexus Dealer Association created the Lexus Gauntlet award. Victory goes to the school with the most wins in all sports. If they tie, they use the overall season’s victories to determine the winner. In the first year, USC won with a tiebreaker.

14. UCLA holds the record for the longest winning streak.

UCLA had eight consecutive victories between 1991-1998.

15. But USC has the last prank (so far).

In 2014, 9 days before the UCLA guards would set up outside the bear’s enclosure, a group sprayed “SC RUNS LA” in red across its torso.

Photo by Andrew Guitierez (Getty Images)