Tag Archives: college rivalry

UCLA Rivalry Week Monument Protection


“UCLA is rivals with USC, and 1-2 weeks before playing USC in football all the important statues or any kind of monumental thing at UCLA got boarded up so that no one could come and mess with it. This included Bruin Bear and the 42 from Jackie Robinson which would be put in a box. People wrote on the box with chalk or markers and say things like ‘F*** SC’ or ‘Go Home’.” 


MM is a 24-year-old American Missionary from a town in the middle of California. She attended UCLA for college and I asked her if there were any specific UCLA traditions that she remembered during Rivalry Week (when USC would play UCLA in football).


As someone who attends USC, I know a little bit about this tradition, except at USC we don’t put our monuments in boxes, instead we cover them with duct tape to protect them from UCLA students. Clearly there must’ve been a history of the schools vandalizing each other’s monuments that caused them to start protecting them during Rivalry Week. The writing of “Go Home” on the box tells me that they are expecting USC students to come to campus to attempt some sort of vandalism or prank. It tells us how important football is at both of these schools and how the rivalry itself has traditions behind it that don’t really match up with football or anything about the school – the traditions have evolved into something separate from the schools themselves and amplify the hatred between the two schools.  which amplifies the hatred between the two schools.

The Aggie Bonfire

Main description:

RA: “The biggest tradition I remember from going to A&M is the Aggie bonfire. I’m pretty sure I went every year. That was… such an event. A&M was always known for being a very spirited school, but the bonfire was the biggest sort of school spirit celebration we had, and it’s the only one I can really remember going to. We had the bonfire the night before a football game usually, not one our of rivals but one we knew that we would win against. It’s a really old tradition, by now they’ve probably done it for at least a hundred years. I think the bonfire started out small, and I don’t think anyone knows why, other than as a way to support the football team. But by the time I was at A&M it had grown a lot, and there were even multiple bonfires. There was one main one that students would plan, but there were also lots of smaller ones that people would have with their friends. There was also usually an alumni fire. At the bonfires we cheer and drink and burn effigies of the other team’s mascot. There also, um, more exciting things that happen, that I can’t talk with my son about. (I had my first hook-up there). But the fires got even bigger after I left, and I think it became an official school tradition. There was a board that organized it and you had apply to be an organizer on it. When I was there anyone could volunteer. Makes sense, because at that point the fires were so big you needed to think about architecture and physics of the whole thing to make sure it lights up and stays standing. Eventually in the ‘90s there was a tragedy and the bonfire collapsed. I don’t remember how many people died, but the school had to ban the bonfires for a long time. People would try to throw little, secret ones sometimes, but there weren’t any big bonfires for a long time. At some point an Alumnus group got together and started throwing the bonfires again, but they’re kept a lot smaller and I think they have actual engineers help to design the bonfires.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Why were the bonfires so important to you and to the school?”

RA: “I was never a very spirited person, but my friends and I always went to the bonfires. It was fun to be together with everyone yelling and dancing around a fire. Going to the bonfire was apart of being an Aggie.”

Personal interpretation:

School spirit traditions are important at many schools, not just as a way of building excitement and attention for sporting events, usually football, but they also serve as an important community building tool. The informant primarily attended for social reasons, and indeed it appears that the bonfire is an important part of school social life.

The Tenth Girl

Well Dan and Mary Smith told me that. He said “What’s the tenth girl?” And I said “I don’t know, what’s the tenth girl?” And he said “Nine out of ten girls are pretty, and the tenth one goes to Michigan.” I guess the girls in Michigan are pretty plain! But, Michigan was a hard school to get into, and you had to be very smart, so it was probably very smart girls but very plain. They told me that in ’76. When we were working at USC together. David’s wife went to Michigan!



(The names above have been changed for confidentiality purposes). This joke has two dynamics to it – a gender differentiation, or a commentary on girls made by boys, as well as a school rivalry component. The informant and his friend who told the joke to him both worked at the University of Southern California, and had a lot of pride and spirit for the school. The friend’s wife went to Michigan – which adds yet another level of humor to the joke, because the joke was told presumably by her as well. At the very least she seems to have been present whenever Dan told the joke. While this is a jab at her appearance (although it could be untrue or unwarranted) it is clearly in a spirit of fun, and relies on stereotyping and blason populaire to make its point and be humorous. The two men clearly respect Mary, and her husband probably finds her attractive, so it seems this joke is told (at least by these specific two men) in a spirit of school rivalry more than anything else. Especially because USC has a reputation or stereotype of attracting a very attractive, but perhaps not as intelligent, female student population.