Since the Dodgers and Giants left New York, the greatest intra-city rivalry in sports has been UCLA vs. USC. Each of these Los Angeles schools reaps a harvest of sun-bronzed California athletes. Each school adds stars from as far away as New Zealand and Sweden. Each routinely wins national championships (USC has won more than 40 in six sports). And, except that it would end all the delightful annual bloodletting, each school would love to do a Carthaginian leveling job on the other's campus. Southern Cal is the big private school downtown with 86 years of tradition. UCLA is the big public school on the newer, more fashionable west side, with the upstart notion, often repeated, that "this is our town." The Bruins' town it was last winter. They upset the Trojan football team to earn the Rose Bowl bid and won easily in basketball.
Then came spring, the loud spring, when the USC athletic department traditionally adds two or three NCAA title trophies to the Fibber McGee clutter of its closets. In track and field, for instance, USC had won 33 dual meets in a row over UCLA. The Trojans seldom even were threatened, and as recently as 1950 they won by 109 points. But last Saturday all that was changed, and suddenly the USC spring was silent. UCLA won 11 of 17 events on the hot, windy floor of the Coliseum and beat the Trojans in track for the first time in history 86-59. The college football and basketball champion of Los Angeles was now cock of a new walk.
The win was no upset. The track nuts, who abound in L.A., knew UCLA Coach Jim Bush was stocked to the silo roof with talented performers, among them seven fine athletes from alien shores. One local sportswriter, a Trojan grad, doped out the meet and missed the final score by just one point. But USC had a dope-sheet of its own that showed how it could win 73-72. UCLA had superior marks, a Trojan claimed, only because USC had had to contend with a cold wind at Stanford, rain and fog at Cal and low temperatures at Washington.
"They may have had bad conditions," said Bush, "but we had to run against a strong wind in San Diego, too, and all my distance runners did a great job.
"UCLA won its first Rose Bowl football game this year, and if we can beat the Trojans it will be another major first in UCLA history. It will be like the Lakers beating the Celtics. The first time we were good enough to meet USC in track was 1934. We were young then, and we stayed young a long time. We are grown up now, and we should win. The boys promised me a victory as a wedding present." Bush got married the previous Sunday to Greta Noyes.
UCLA started off well with German Traugott Gloeckler's first in the shotput, but the Trojans led by one point a couple of events later, after Greg Heet, a 19-year-old sophomore, won the high jump at 6 feet 10¼. The first big USC disappointment came in the 440-yard relay. Many experts had predicted a Trojan triumph, and Dwight Middleton, USC's fine anchor man, openly agreed. But Bob Frey, who later won the 440 in the meet-record time of 46.5, picked up ground against USC's Hutch Gibb on the second leg. Roger Wolff, running third for USC, stumbled while taking the baton, and that seemed to destroy his rhythm. Norm Jackson, hampered by a muscle pull for 10 days, fortunately had a nice lead on Middleton. He held most of it to win by eight yards for UCLA.
Coach Bush, who at 39 looks young enough to be wearing UCLA light blue himself, was elated, but he still paced nervously up and down the infield, pulling his fingers. USC Coach Vern Wolfe, an old married man, took things more calmly, shading his face with a beige straw hat and quietly chatting with his athletes, whose dark, wine-red sweats seemed to blend perfectly with their gloomy expressions.
Middleton, who had won the 100, and Half Miler Dennis Carr did not let Wolfe down in their specialties, but even when they were winning they and the rest of the Trojans looked sad and resigned. In the 220 UCLA's Tom Jones and Bob Frey had recorded better times, but when Middleton, surprisingly, caught Jones from behind at the tape, he gave forth with no smiles, no waves. Carr trailed listlessly in the 880 but clenched his teeth on the backstretch and beat UCLA's Dennis Breckow, seemingly out of sheer desperation.
Most of the rest was UCLA. Left-handed Marc Savage won the pole vault. Defending NCAA champion Bill Fosdick, who had vowed "to vault if it kills me," had to scratch after a few warmup swings. A tendon in his left knee, injured a month ago, was too painful. Paul Kerry, USC's NCAA high-hurdles champion, looked more pitiful than anybody. With his right heel still bruised and swollen from a fall the previous week, he grimaced fiercely while fighting his way over the 120 highs. UCLA's Ron Copeland, a romping 6-foot-4 giant, bolted past him on the outside with contrasting case. Bush can enter Copeland in any race between 220 and 440 and expect him to win. Against Arizona State, Copeland ran the hurdles, 220 and anchored the 440 and mile relays. Only in the 220 was he forced to settle for second place in that meet.
UCLA swept the javelin, as expected, and Bruin Doug Olmstead won the triple jump as Jamaican Mahoney Samuels of USC was forced out by a two-week-old injury after his second jump.
UCLA probably could have made the score more impressive had Bush decided to have his superb distance runner, Bob Day, go in both the mile and two-mile. But Day, tired after examinations, ran only the mile, winning easily in the meet-record time of 4:00.2. Geoff Pyne, a psychology major from New Zealand, won the two-mile, but the best example of UCLA's determination-was George Husaruk, a scrawny sophomore who hung onto Pyne's heels to give the Bruins a one-two. As an exhausted Husaruk held his stomach, the public-address announcer hailed UCLA as the winner of the meet. A dozen teammates lifted him to their shoulders. Others lifted Bush and Assistant Coach Ken Shannon for triumphant rides across the field to shake hands with Wolfe.
Even the meet-ending mile relay, which had figured to be exciting, was a sad affair for USC. Troy's Roger Wolff managed to stay ahead of Bob Frey on the opening lap. That was promising. His pass to Hutch Gibb was fast and perfect. Maybe the Trojans could finish the dismal day on a winning note. Then, on the backstretch, Gibb, still leading, pressed a hand to his thigh and pulled to the side. The spectators were on their way to the exits when Copeland, running anchor, trotted to the tape.
Vern Wolfe did not cry. "Last year we lost two dual meets," he said, "yet we stole the NCAA championships. Don't count us out." And there was sweeter solace. In the concurrent meet his freshmen beat UCLA by 48 points. Paul Wilson pole-vaulted 17 feet 1 inch to become the fifth man in the world to clear 17, and Jamaican Lennox Miller set a school record with a 20.6 in the 220.
But Saturday was this season, and the nicest wedding present of the year belonged to Jim Bush. "We won it," he said, "but USC didn't collapse." He was no longer nervous as he climbed into the bus that took the Bruins to a victory party in Westwood. "This makes us the top track team in the country," he added proudly. He was right. And just what would you expect from the emperor of all Los Angeles?