The Gauntlet’s gone, but rivalry remains

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first_imgStay with me now.In general, USC fans don’t like UCLA fans, and UCLA fans don’t like USC fans.Right? That much we know for sure.But why?Well, that’s another question.Trojans or Bruins often press for an answer when you ask them why they don’t like each other.And unlike some may tell you, neither of the schools suck.In fact, they’re both great.Great academically, great athletically and great in just about every other manner you can judge them in.But we still don’t really like each other.“It’s just the nature of the two institutions,” said USC women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin. “We’re at different ends of the spectrum on pretty much everything, and we don’t really see eye to eye on anything. But I think it is a good, healthy rivalry and it’s one that creates a lot of excitement within Southern California in every single sport.”And that comes from a coach whose Women of Troy have lost their last three matches against the Bruins.But how are we going to settle this rivalry now — now that the primary measure of athletic competition between the two schools, the oh-so-popular Lexus Gauntlet, doesn’t exist anymore?You’ve probably heard about the Gauntlet. It gave almost equal value to each of the 18 sports in which the two schools compete against each other, added all the results up and essentially measured which school was superior athletically in a given year.The trophy was more than a bit showy, a silver spectacle meant to symbolize a knight’s dropped gauntlet from “years ago.” Engraved on it was the line: “If a rival picked it up, the two would fight to the death.”They didn’t exactly do that, but the Gauntlet definitely increased the competitiveness of the rivalry.USC won it the last two years, clinching it in dramatic fashion last year in the middle of the annual track and field dual meet with the Bruins.Jose Eskenazi, USC associate athletic director for marketing, said that was a perfect example of how the Gauntlet allowed the intensity between the two schools to spread from the main revenue sports all the way through each athletic department.“The original concept was to create a cross-town competition focusing on football primarily,” Eskenazi said. “And then the idea sort of flourished into something that would last, and it made perfect sense — especially with both athletic traditions being so deep in many sports — to do it across the board.”Tom Davis, assistant vice president and general manager of ISP Sports, the company that operates UCLA’s marketing department, shares the same sentiment.“It was great that as a team member — whether you were a member of soccer or football — that your contribution to your team also has implications to the whole USC-UCLA rivalry,” Davis said. “But I don’t think any of the UCLA student-athletes need an added incentive to want to beat USC and vice versa, I’m sure.”But Lexus’ contract for the Gauntlet ended in June, as the luxury car company couldn’t afford to continue to sponsor the rivalry in the stalled economy.Since then, the two schools have continued to keep a private tally, but the number isn’t available to the general public and the old Gauntlet website that displayed an updated score has gone offline.The goal is to provide a new, up-to-date resource within the next two weeks, officials from both USC and UCLA said — with or without a corporate sponsor to foot some of the bill.Until then, they realize the effects a Gauntlet-less rivalry may have.“I could see how it could affect their enthusiasm. Absolutely,” Eskenazi said. “Just because the awareness isn’t there. But once it gets up and running again, it’s our job to make that happen ourselves.”Davis is working in tandem with Eskenazi to create whatever that may be.“I don’t think [not having the Lexus name] diminishes the rivalry,” Davis said. “It existed long before the Lexus Gauntlet did, although I certainly think the gauntlet added an interesting dimension to it.”And they also realize what it can mean school-wide.Marc Dellins, UCLA’s associate athletic director and sports information director, said that those keeping their eye on the Gauntlet were more than just players and fans.“All the coaches from both schools like keeping track of the head-to-head competition on the field and having something at the end of the year that symbolizes one school beating the other school,” Dellins said. “More often than not, I think that’s something that the coaches enjoy.”Yep. Just ask Khosroshahin.“It definitely brings a little something extra to the rivalry,” he said.“Looking Past the X’s & O’s” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Pedro at [email protected]last_img

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