USC gears up for UCLA game with time-honored traditions

Tommy Trojan has been taped up and lamppost banners across campus read, “Beat the Bruins.” It’s rivalry week.

The last football game of the regular season sparks intense school spirit, as UCLA is the team’s final opponent. This big game includes many different traditions held by various campus organizations to rile students up for the rivalry match on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Troy Week

Each year, USC Campus Activities, Late Night ’SC, USC Concerts Committee and the Undergraduate Student Government organize Troy Week, the week leading up to the game. This week-long event includes various dress-up days that are reminiscent of high school spirit weeks. Monday was “Pajama Day” and marked the first day of Troy Week, an excuse to roll out of bed and go straight to class. On Tuesday, students can show their spirit by dressing identically to one another in “Twin Day.”

Wednesday’s dress-up day is “Way Back Wednesday,” in which students wear vintage clothing reminiscent of previous time periods. On Thursday, students can show their support for the football team by dressing up in their spirit gear. Those who dress up for all four days will be given the chance to spin a wheel for Conquest merchandise such as shirts, hats or fanny packs.

The Trojan Knights first taped up Tommy Trojan in 1942 after a few UCLA students snuck onto campus and vandalized the statue. Photo by Emily Smith | Daily Trojan

Trojan Knights

A longstanding campus organization, the Trojan Knights has its own traditions for the big game. Every year, the brotherhood protects USC’s George Tirebiter statue with Tirebiter House, a kennel built by the Facilities Management Services, and sings the UCLA counter-fight song, a parody of UCLA’s fight song.

However, the group’s tradition that has lasted since the 1940s is Tommy Watch. As far back as 1942, a few Bruins were spotted vandalizing Tommy Trojan the week before the rivalry game. This was after the Knights stole the Victory Bell from UCLA the year prior. As a result, the Knights decided to tape up USC’s famed statue, a practice now carried out by the Facilities Management Services, to prevent the Bruins from ruining the statue again.

After the penultimate game ends, the Knights camp out at Tommy Trojan. Over the years, USC has still made advancements in security by closing the campus at night and developing Tommy Cam, a security camera which watches over the center of the University Park campus.

“The security measures in place now are easily circumvented and have not kept away Bruins,” said Knights president David Monk, a senior majoring in law, history and culture. “Each year I’ve been in school, at least one attempt has been made to paint Tommy.”

The Trojan Knights typically employs two of its members to take two-hour shifts at the statue; however, there could be up to 20 members at one time performing Tommy Watch. The members at Tommy Trojan would notify the rest of the brotherhood if an issue were to arise. Because the organization has about 100 members, members are still able to get a good amount of sleep while devoting their time to this task. Those camping out can study or participate in activities like the Knights’ annual wiffleball game.

“Nothing about Tommy Watch is obligatory for any of our members,” said Knights rush chair David Gregg, a junior majoring in chemical engineering. “We do it exclusively because we love to do it, and out of love for USC and this rivalry.”

The USC Helenes have launched Hecuba Watch, following in the footsteps of their brother organization the Trojan Knights. Photo courtesy of USC Helenes

Hecuba Watch

With USC Village opening this year, the USC Helenes will also take part in this tradition by launching Hecuba Watch. Much like Tommy Watch, at least two Helenes members will camp out at USC Village’s Hecuba statue overnight to ensure no one vandalizes it. Instead of tape, the statue is protected by a large red crate decorated by the sisterhood. On one side, the Helenes set up an interactive wall where students or people in the community can write about who or what inspires them. The group will also use this opportunity to promote its hygiene drive for students to donate items like blankets, clothes, toothbrushes or toothpaste.

Much like the Knights’ layout for Tommy Watch, the Helenes’ plan to hold organized activities for those at the campout including a game night and alumni sleepover. First Lady Niki Nikias will also continue her annual tradition of giving baklava, a Greek dessert, to the Knights and Helenes as a sign of appreciation for their service to USC and willingness to camp out at Tommy and Hecuba all week.  

“Hecuba Watch is in partnership with the University, not really the Trojan Knights, but we will be supporting each other and visiting each other at Tommy and Hecuba throughout the week,” said Helenes director of public relations Mahima Dutt, a junior majoring in communication.


Apart from Tommy and Hecuba watches, both the Helenes and Knights will be present with the Victory Bell for Conquest on Thursday.

Organized by USG, Trojan Pride, Campus Activities and Concerts Committee, Conquest happens annually the Thursday before the UCLA game and begins at 5 p.m. on McCarthy Quad. Food trucks, vendors, a Ferris wheel, bonfire and mini golf course will be open to the public at this time. The centerpiece of the night is a concert, but the artists have yet been announced.

Apart from the Trojan Knights, the other organizations that will be present at the big event are the Song Girls, football team, Trojan Marching Band, spirit leaders and other athletic teams. The Song Girls will do a performance on stage with the marching band while the organizations will talk with the crowd. This year’s vintage theme for Conquest inspired the Concerts Committee to bring back Troy Week. Both events, along with old and new traditions from the Knights and Helenes, seek to bring about a strong sense of school spirit and prepare students for the game against “the other school.”