USC vs. UCLA Football: Hollywood Talks Trash, Takes Sides Before the Big Game

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This article first appeared in the Dec. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Aside from the awards races, no contest puts Hollywood in such a frenzy as the annual USC-UCLA football game, which takes place this year Nov. 26 at USC's home, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That's because the industry has always been inordinately packed with alumni of both universities, dating to when John Wayne strapped on his helmet for the Trojans in the 1920s and Spartacus' Woody Strode took the field for the Bruins. In more recent history, Rodney Peete and Mark Harmon have taken part in one of the nation's most storied rivalries.

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"Everyone is really at each other's throats -- it's great!" says Tom Huffman, vp original programming at VH1, who attends games with fellow Trojan David Eilenberg, the top development executive at Mark Burnett Productions.

The rivalry has been lopsided of late with the Trojans having won 11 of the past 12 crosstown-rivalry games. Yet when it comes to your alma mater, you hang in there. "I prefer being the underdog," says UCLA grad Mike Medavoy. "When you win, there's a bigger up."

USC has had troubles off the field. During former coach Pete Carroll's reign, the sidelines began to resemble the Lakers' courtside, with Snoop Dogg and Kate Walsh mingling with players. The celeb show is now on hold due to NCAA penalties stemming from rules violations involving former Trojan tailback Reggie Bush (Kim Kardashian's ex) accepting gifts from sports agents.

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How intense does the competition remain? Says a producer of a network show: "I went to UCLA, but I root for USC. They're better. Don't quote me by name -- people will kill me."

BATTLE OF THE WILLS!: Trash-talking hits its peak leading up to the big game. THR hears from two super-fans.

Will Forte, UCLA Alum: "I don't really associate with USC fans. A certain type of person goes there --they aren't good people. They're very entitled, the type of person that will not hold the door for an old woman. They'll intentionally walk a blind person into traffic. That's what you're working with at that school."

Will Ferrell, USC Alum: "It's funny -- ever since USC surpassed UCLA in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, there's been an edginess among the Bruin faithful. We have always maintained athletic dominance, and now that we have academic superiority, you just feel sorry for people who have anything to do with UCLA."

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CHEAT SHEET: How the longtime rivals stack up on and off the field

Top Industry Alumni

  • USC: George Lucas, Matthew Weiner, Judd Apatow, Ron Howard, Jason Reitman, Bryan Lourd
  • UCLA: Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Ovitz, James Franco, Stacey Snider, Jack Black, Peter Guber

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Wins in Rivalry (plus seven ties)

  • USC: 45*
  • UCLA: 28

Standard Season-Ticket Cost

  • USC: $410 for seven home games
  • UCLA: $253 for six home games

What Big-Time Donors Get

  • USC: The $30,000-and-above level entitles annual supporters to not only pregame picnic invitations and priority seating but also official recognition in USC athletics sanctum Heritage Hall beside the football greats.
  • UCLA: The $25,000-and-above level entitles annual supporters to invitations to the chancellor's pregame tailgate and an exclusive dinner with UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero and head coach Rick Neuheisel.

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U.S. News & World Report Academic Ranking

  • USC: 23
  • UCLA: 25

* Includes wins in 2004 and 2005 that were subsequently vacated as a result of NCAA sanctions.


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