USC Football: Ranking the Greatest Traditions in Trojan Football History
Where does one start when peering back through 90 years of proud USC Trojan football history to find their all-time greatest football traditions?
And how do you find an order to put them in once you do?
Such was this writer's plight when this assignment came through via e-mail.
Now to be clear, it's not that it was difficult to find traditions associated with the Trojans.
There are many, although some, like tailgating in the Coliseum parking lot, have been cast aside for the sake of a sober, functioning, USC home crowd.
Rather, the challenge was to find meaningful traditions that have pertinence for the Trojans and their legions of fans.
This list will be short, but indeed, it is meaningful.
And here they are, the five greatest all-time traditions in USC Trojan football history.
No. 5: The Victory Bell
That this tradition, the tangible reward of the victor each year in the cross-town rivalry between USC and UCLA, is placed the lowest of any on this list, shows just how lopsided this series has become in recent years.
According to the website "USC Trojan Pride," the victory bell, a 295 lb. Southern Pacific locomotive adornment, was given to UCLA in 1939 by its alumni association group.
Less than two years later it was stolen. Want to guess by whom?
Members of a USC fraternity "borrowed" the bell and kept it hidden for more than a year.
Eventually, it was given back and a tradition of having the victor keeping the bell and painting it that year's winner's school colors began shortly thereafter.
The bell is then retained by the winning school that year and placed in strategic areas so it can be rung every time the holding school scores in the game.
Currently the bell is on an extended vacation with the men of Troy and unfortunately for UCLA, it doesn't appear as though it will be leaving the Trojans' possession any time soon.
No. 4: The Shillelagh
With USC's convincing victory over Notre Dame last Saturday, the tradition of having the winning school holding on to the Gaelic war club rests with the Trojans in 2011.
It began in 1952 when the Los Angeles chapter of Notre Dame alumni club presented the club as a rivalry trophy.
In addition to the winning school that year retaining possession of it, the club is also adorned with a medallion representing the winning school.
There are actually two Shillehagh's; one has been retired because it ran out of room for the medallions.
The other, as Trojan fans know, is in USC's possession for 2011.
No. 3: Traveler
It all began in 1961 when the beautiful white horse ridden by a noble Trojan appeared at USC's home opener against Georgia Tech.
From that point on, all USC touchdowns at home are celebrated by a rousing rendition of "Conquest" and a lap around the Coliseum.
Sometimes a pure Arabian breed, sometimes a Tennessee Walker and others a mix of the two, seven "Travelers" have graced the hallowed grounds of USC's home field.
For fans of the program, there is no greater way to celebrate USC's gridiron success.
And for fans of opponents' teams, they have come to hate white steeds of all sorts.
Just the way Trojan fans like it.
No. 2: "V" for Victory Two-Fingered "Salute"
It is one of the most recognizable hand gestures in college football.
The index and middle fingers, extended together, rocking back and forth on the pivot of the wrist and with a swing of the elbow..
Today, that two-fingered salute is offered to the strains of the No. 1 tradition on this list every time something good happens for the Trojans.
But did you know that this simple hand gesture goes back to ancient times and features the Trojans of Homer's Iliad?
You see, whenever the Trojans would conquer an opponent, they would cut the first two fingers off of their enemies right hand to prevent them from returning to the battlefield because they could no longer hold a sword.
Then the soldiers of Troy would take it one step further.
To mock their fallen opponents, Trojan soldiers would show them their still intact digits as if to say, "We have just beaten you and to prove it, look at our two fingers that you are now missing."
So the legend goes.
Today, that simple gesture does not carry the gruesome message of ancient times, but it still causes their opponents chagrin, much to Trojan fans' delight.
No. 1: "Fight On!"
Ah, yes, that memorable school anthem that Trojan fans love and their opponents love to hate.
"Fight On!," one of the most recognizable school songs ever composed, was written in 1922 by Milo Sweet (with lyrics by Sweet and Glen Grant) as an entry to a Trojan spirit contest.
Since then, "Fight On!" has been used to rouse the spirits of USC fans any time the Trojans play.
But there is more to contribute to this song's legend.
According to USC's Marching Band press pack, the song was also played on the deck of an American battleship as soldiers prepared to disembark to capture a Japanese held island in World War II.
Accompanied by the two-fingered hand salute, "Fight On!" and its lyrics are etched in every Trojan fan's mind:
Fight on for ol' SC
Our men fight on to victory
Our Alma Mater dear,
looks up to you
Fight on and win For ol' SC
Fight on to victory
What a song and what a tradition!
With traditions come memories, and USC has those in abundance.
Celebrated for football excellence throughout the years, generations of Trojan fans have had a part in maintaining those traditions and passing them down to their children who have done the same for theirs.
As the men of Troy march toward their second century of gridiron mastery, those traditions that were established in years gone by will be the focus of joy in the years to come.
New traditions will come, and they may join this list of five celebrations enjoyed by the legions of fans of the men of Troy.
But they will have to pass the test of time to find their way on a list such as those featured here.
In the meantime, Trojan fans will still have plenty of ways to celebrate the team they are so passionate about.