UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is congratulated by fullback David Allen… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
UCLA and USC retreated to neutral corners Thursday.
The Bruins came out swinging. The Trojans came out with an open letter.
UCLA put an end to one tradtion -- the USC drum major stabbing the turf with a sword -- then went wild with their own annual event.
Thursday’s bonfire brought out some of the rivalry’s rancor.
“We hate those dudes across town,” UCLA senior fullback David Allen told the crowd. “We’re taking it back this year.”
Meanwhile, across town, there was displeasure with UCLA not allowing the drum major to stab the field.
Keith Yoerg, the current drum major who applies the pre-game coup de grace to the sod, released a statement admonishing UCLA for preventing what he called a USC band tradition done in every stadium “for 40 years, including Stanford, Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA and bowl games.”
UCLA officials threatened to ban the band from performing at halftime if the drum major stabbed the field. Athletic department officials have refused to comment, but privately they have questioned whether it demonstrated good sportsmanship.
At the bonfire, Coach Jim Mora asked students to show sportsmanship at the game, but also said, “We need to make that Rose Bowl the most uninviting place for a Trojan to come into in his life.”
In his letter, Yoerg said that the stabbing of the sword was not meant to be disrespectful, but signals the beginning of the band’s pre-game show.
“Eliminating it misrepresents what the tradition stands for,” Yoerg said.
Yoerg explained that “it is one of the most iconic moments in all of college sports.… It is a moment that gives Trojan fans a chance to voice their support for the team and cheer, as much as it gives opposing fans a chance to boo.”
Back across town at the Bruins' bonfire tradition, a match was being lit.
USC has won 12 of the last 13 games in the series, including the last five. The Bruins told students that streak would end.
“Paint the Rose Bowl blue,” safety Andrew Abbott said. “We’re bringing it back this year.”
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