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Navy was mortified when the Army cheering section immediately unrolled a banner that said: "Today!"
Thinking this had to be coincidence, or incredible bad luck, the Middies quickly tried again with another of their banners. This one said: "Why Not Schedule Vassar?"
And Army countered with a sign that produced one of the biggest laughs Municipal Stadium ever heard. It read: "We Already Got Navy."
A rivalry that produces nearly as many spectators as Army-Navy every year, maybe even more pranks and surely some of the best football, is that between USC and UCLA. It is unique in one sense: two good teams in the same town. The game was brought to the full attention of the U.S. last year when the two schools battled for the national championship on television, and before 93,000 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Since UCLA grew up to USC's stature in the middle 1930s, the rivalry has become a social study. It is USC, the stuffy private school, against UCLA, the booming state institution. The two continuously seem to be able to infiltrate each other's card cheering sections and mess up the messages, to paint campus landmarks such as Tommy Trojan, to sabotage bonfires, kidnap mascots, capture and punish invaders, attempt bomb pranks and generally enjoy a good old-fashioned collegiate hatred.
Since they are located in California's fantasyland, both schools are naturally proud of all the celebrities who have been a part of the series. USC likes to list among its distinguished alumni an ex-tackle named John Wayne, who was Marion Morrison in school; the late Ward Bond, also a tackle; Producer Aaron Rosenberg, who was an All-America guard; All-America Halfback Cotton Warburton, who won an Oscar last year for film editing; and the noted TV commentator, Frank Gifford. For background music, USC can point out that a fellow named Herb Alpert once marched in the Trojan band.
UCLA, meanwhile, has a list of its own that includes Mike Frankovich, an ex-quarterback who is now the head of Columbia Pictures; Actor Gary Lock-wood, who was formerly a tackle named Gary Yurosek; and baseball's famed Jackie Robinson, who was a football hero first and a standout in one of the more memorable USC-UCLA games, the 0-0 tie of 1939.
The teams played eight games in the series before UCLA managed to win. That happened in 1942 when Bob Waterfield led the Bruins to their first Rose Bowl. If UCLA ever had a period when it slightly dominated the game it was during the late Red Sanders' time, 1949 through 1957, when his single-wing teams won six of nine from the Trojans. At that, he lost the big game they played in 1952, when both teams were unbeaten and untied and 97,000 stormed the Coliseum to see USC edge out a 14-12 victory.
Now, with John McKay at USC and Tommy Prothro at UCLA, the rivalry has eased into a perfect dead-even matchup, one which can only keep serving up future thrills. In the three games McKay and Prothro have played as cross-town rivals—and not the best of friends—all have been won in the last few minutes. Prothro, a big, serious man who smokes and drinks Cokes incessantly, won the first two, 20-16 and 14-7. McKay, a quick-witted, outgoing socializer, took last year's, with the help of O. J. Simpson, and took the national championship, too.
National championships, titles, trophies, jugs, mugs and hugs—all of these are things that make up the game's traditional rivalries. It does not really matter if it's USC vs. UCLA or hundreds of St. Olafs taking on hundreds of Carle-tons, for what is really on display is the essence of a sport. No wonder the millions who thrive on college football like to think that it wasn't Columbus who discovered America. Princeton and Rutgers did.