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Pranks for the Memories

The outlandish behavior of fans helps make college football so entertaining, and during rivalry week that wacky behavior intensifies with inventive pranks against the archrival leading up to the big game.

For example, three years ago a group of California students uprooted the Stanford tree costume and took it hostage. A photo of the captive tree wearing a blindfold was sent to the Cal student paper.

However, this tradition is fading, at least when it comes to the Southern California rivalry. What you found this week were UCLA students filling a USC fountain with blue water and USC followers defacing a wall at UCLA’s Spaulding Field with “3-peat"--a reference to the Trojans’ two consecutive victories over the Bruins--along with assorted profanity. Gone are the days of elaborate high jinks.

Last year’s most elaborate prank was not only mean-spirited but illegal. During the annual game between the schools’ marching bands, students broke into the UCLA bus and stole more than $30,000 in equipment at USC’s Cromwell Field.

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Good-natured pranks over the years have included Traveler, the USC mascot, getting locked in his horse trailer, lawns burned with the rival school initials, sabotaged card stunts, a smoke bomb planted under the UCLA cheerleaders’ platform, and streakers. Then there was the time USC painted 20,000 crickets cardinal and gold and released them in the UCLA library.

These tales from the past may give the current generation some inspiration:

* Before the 1943 game in November, some UCLA students kidnapped USC’s mascot mutt, named George Tirebiter. He was returned before kickoff, albeit with a new look: ‘UCLA’ was shaved into his fur. But USC sorority sisters rescued him from canine fashion embarrassment, quickly making him a cardinal and gold sweater.

* In 1958 some UCLA students rented a helicopter, loaded it with manure and tried to dump the load on the Tommy Trojan statue. But the chopper couldn’t fly low enough to do the job properly and when the manure was let loose, most of it was sucked right back up into the helicopter, covering the passengers.

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