Until 1912, teams at the University of Southern California were known as the Methodists or the Wesleyans. But university officials were unhappy with both nicknames. Athletic Director Warren Bovard, son of university president Dr. George Bovard, asked Los Angeles Times sports editor Owen Bird to select an appropriate nickname. Bird said, “At this time, the athletes and coaches of the university were under terrific handicaps. They were facing teams that were bigger and better equipped, yet they had splendid fighting spirit. The name ‘Trojans’ fitted them.”
The winner of the annual USC-UCLA football game is given yearlong possession of the Victory Bell. The 295-pound bell originally clanged from atop a Southern Pacific freight locomotive.
It was given to UCLA in 1939 as a gift from the UCLA Alumni Association. For two seasons, cheerleaders rang the bell after each Bruin point. At the opening game of UCLA‘s 1941 football season, 6 members of USC‘s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity infiltrated theUCLA rooting section. After the game, they helped Bruin students load the bell onto a waiting truck bound for Westwood. But then, a Trojan quietly removed the key to the truck, and while the Bruins went to get a replacement, the Trojans drove off with the bell.
On Nov. 12, 1942, the bell was wheeled in front of Tommy Trojan, and the student body presidents of both schools — USC‘s Bill McKay and UCLA‘s Bill Farrer — signed an agreement stating that thereafter the annual winner of the Trojan-Bruin gridiron clash would keep the bell for the following year. In the case of a tie, the bell would be retained by the school that won the previous year’s game. The USC Alumni Association later repaid the UCLAAlumni Association for half the cost of the bell.
In the center of the USC campus stands one of the most famous collegiate landmarks in the country: Tommy Trojan. Since being unveiled in 1930 for USC‘s 50th jubilee, the statue of the bronzed Trojan warrior has served not only as a popular meeting place on campus, but as a symbol of the university’s fighting spirit. The statue is a composite of many USC football players from the late 20s, most notably 1930 Rose Bowl Player of the Game Russ Saunders and All-American Erny Pinckert. The tradition of Tommy Trojan being painted blue and gold by UCLApranksters was first recorded in October of 1941. Since then, Tommy has been hit often, but now USCmaintenance crews cover him with plastic and canvas for protection during the week of the annual USC-UCLA football game.