USC-UCLA rivalry boosts college game’s interest
When it comes to college athletics, it’s no secret there’s a number of historic and heated rivalries.
The debates over whose is most intense can be just as fierce, and right in the thick of the conversation is the battle between Los Angeles’ USC and UCLA.
Phil Foster had heard of but had never quite understood the rivalry between the two schools – both of which compete in the PAC-8 Conference of the Division II American Collegiate Hockey Association. Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, he’d always been partial to Penn State University’s Big Ten showdowns with Ohio State and Michigan.
Two years ago, Foster arrived in Los Angeles, and what better way to immerse oneself into a rivalry than to participate in a sport. He joined the USC club hockey team, and his perception of the competitive jealousies in town immediately changed.
From his first semester on the team, Foster has been hooked. Some of his favorite memories have come fighting for the Crosstown Cup – the trophy the two teams compete for in a five-game series each year.
The Trojans were on the verge of conceding the season series to the Bruins in Foster’s first term, but USC rallied to win the final two games to capture the hardware.
Foster had been part of the Army-Navy rivalry as a Midshipman undergrad, but he says there’s no comparison to what’s going on in Los Angeles.
“The difference is, when the Army game is over, we’re still brothers in arms,” said Foster, who’s now the Trojans’ captain. “This keeps going. I’ve seen alumni probably 40 years out where you mention UCLA to them and a scowl comes onto their face immediately.
“That’s the greatest part about it – how loyal our fans are.”
The ferocity between the two schools also surprised UCLA coach Mark Francis, who previously coached at the University of New Brunswick in Eastern Canada.
“It’s as big a rivalry as I’ve ever been a part of,” Francis said. “That’s saying something having coached Division I in Canada.”
Francis said he’d never use the word “hatred” to refer to their crosstown foes, but added that it’s a competition when they hit the ice.
“It’s an intense rivalry, and that raises the level of both teams,” he said. “Everyone is better for it, and I think you can say that for all the sports.”
An interesting variable in the rivalry is the performance of the football teams. Both sides agree that when those squads are in the national title hunt (as they are this year), it energizes the fan bases, and the effects are felt across all sports.
Bruins defenseman and club hockey president Nick Vossler was a freshman the same time quarterback Brett Hundley arrived to turn UCLA’s fortunes around on the gridiron. USC had won the matchup, 50-0, the previous year, but all was right with his world when his team experienced victories in the Crosstown Cup and on the football field.
“I don’t know that I’ve experienced a better weekend,” Vossler said. “We won the Crosstown Cup that Friday night, and then we played USC in football the next day and won (38-28).”
Once a year, the sides get together for a game at STAPLES Center. The timing couldn’t be better this season; football’s Battle for the Victory Bell will be played on Saturday Nov. 28, and the Crosstown rivalry will be renewed on the Los Angeles Kings’ home ice on Dec. 1.
“I’m expecting that to just go off,” Vossler said of playing at STAPLES with the two games in such close proximity. “It’s going to be sweet. When the football teams are good, everyone is more charismatic and wants to show more support.”
– Andrew Turner