UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora talks to Bruin fans about keeping their cool and letting the rivalry play itself out on the field.
Passions fueling the well-known rivalry between the Bruins and the Trojans are burning brighter and hotter this week as anticipation builds in the final days leading up to the most important football game of the year.
With the Bruins coming into this Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl with an 8-2 record (5-2 in the Pac-12 Conference) and a No. 17 national ranking, UCLA fans are harboring genuine hope that the Victory Bell — the 295-pound bell that goes to the winner of this annual crosstown clash — will finally come back to Westwood after being at USC for the last five years. The Trojans hold a 7-3 overall record (5-3 in the conference) and a No. 18 national ranking.
Adding to the pressure for a win, the upcoming game will determine the champion of the Pac-12 South Division and the team that will take on the winner of the North Division for the conference championship.
Boosting fans’ optimism, the Bruins who run into the Rose Bowl this Saturday are a different team from the one that was so resoundingly defeated by the Trojans last year at the Coliseum. This Bruin team has already won four straight games this season for the first time since 2005, and triumphed in four road games for the first
time since 2002.
Protecting UCLA's beloved assets: the new John Wooden statue and the Bruin.
The Bruins’ eight wins put Head Football Coach Jim Mora — in his first season with the Bruins — just one game behind the nine-game record set by former Head Coach Terry Donahue in his first season in 1976.
The crosstown rivalry, which actually predates the 1929 game when UCLA and USC first clashed on the football field, has seen pranks and acts of vandalism play out on both campuses through the years. This year has proved no different. Sometime Monday, vandals defaced a campus entrance sign on Sunset Boulevard near the UCLA Anderson School of Management with red and yellow paint.
To guard against further attacks, both the mighty Bruin in Bruin Plaza and the new John Wooden statue that stands near the entrance to Pauley Pavilion were protectively boxed up in thick plywood. And members of the students’ Rally Committee have been standing guard at both locations at night.
"There are students here every night this week from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.," said Jayna Patel, the Rally Committee leader in charge of providing security. "We’ll also do rounds around the school to check the fountains and fields throughout the night. We are definitely being extra cautious this year because we are doing much better in football. We do feel the rivalry has been more intense because of this, and want to do everything possible to ensure our campus stays safe from the Trojans."
More than 1,000 fans of both campuses turned out for a friendly competition and raised over $53,000 for Special Olympics athletes.
To encourage students to display the very best school spirit, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Janina Montero and USC Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Jackson sent a joint letter to both campuses calling for mutual respect and sportsmanship.
"Respecting those around you demonstrates respect for yourself and for your university," Montero and Jackson wrote. "People all across Los Angeles and the nation will be watching the big game. We trust all of you to demonstrate the best of what it means to be a Bruin or a Trojan."
Similarly, both UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and USC Athletic Director Pat Haden issued their own press statements calling on the teams’ respective fans to exercise discretion and sportsmanship while attending the game.
"While the game will no doubt be played with great enthusiasm on both sides, it is important to remember that UCLA and USC are part of the same Los Angeles community, and this rivalry should be celebrated with graciousness and class," said Guerrero in a statement.
To prove that good things can come from the rivalry, more than 1,100 runners and supporters of both the Bruins and the Trojans came out Sunday for the inaugural "We Run the City 5K" and raised more than $53,000 to help provide free year-round training for nearly 12,000 Special Olympics athletes in Southern California. The annual rivalry race, to be hosted alternately at UCLA and USC, will lead up to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which will be held in Los Angeles. Both UCLA and USC will host more than 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 countries.
The inaugural rivalry race brought out the cheer squads from both 'SC and UCLA.
"UCLA won the inaugural event by having the most participants, raising the most funds and being the first to have 100 runners cross the finish line," said Michael Deluca, executive director of recreation and campus life and a host at the event. "Overall, UCLA Recreation was pleased and honored to act as our campus representative for planning and coordination, and in hosting the first event at UCLA."
On Thursday, a rally and bonfire on campus will draw the biggest crowds of fans to cheer the Bruins on. Events kick off at noon with a Beat ‘SC car smash in Bruin Plaza. More details about the events are available here.
To find out more about this historic rivalry, read this.