10 Things You Didn’t Know about USC Football

The USC Trojan football program represents the University of Southern California. It started up in 1888, meaning that it can claim a long, proud history, as shown by the fact that it has had more than 50 bowl appearances. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about USC football:

1. Founded in 1888

The USC Trojan football program started up in 1888, meaning that it has existed for more than a century’s time. For full context, the first college football game happened in 1869, though it is important to note that this was so far back that the rules of the game still bore more resemblance to association football than gridiron football.

2. The Pants Were Made By the Quarterback

Amusingly, the pants of that first USC football team were made by Arthur Carroll, who played the position of quarterback for the team. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carroll went on to become a tailor, meaning that he continued to put those skills to excellent use.

3. Joined Intercollegiate Football Association of Southern California in 1893

By 1893, USC had joined the Intercollegiate Football Association of Southern California, which was a predecessor to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that exists in the present. Besides USC, there were three other members, with one of them being the school that is now called Cal Tech.

4. Used to Be Called the Methodists

Initially, the USC football program was called the USC Methodists, though this was sometimes replaced by the USC Fighting Methodists instead. As for why USC students would be called Methodists, the school had connections with the Methodist Church, though those connections were officially severed in the 1950s.

5. Became Known as the Trojans in the 1910s

It wasn’t until the 1910s that the USC football program started being called the USC Trojans, which started up because a reporter for the Los Angeles Times named Owen Bird called them thus in his news report. He chose that name because USC athletes were being beaten by better-equipped and more experienced competitors but nonetheless fought on.

6. Reference to the Trojans of the Trojan War

Of course, this would have been a reference to the residents of the city of Troy, who were on the losing end of a ten-year siege carried out by a loose coalition of Greek kings and other notables. Suffice to say that there has never been a shortage of people who admire the Trojans, ranging from people who believed themselves to have descended from Trojan survivors to people who sympathized with how most of the Trojans were just defending their homes.

7. Dropped Football for a Time

Speaking of which, it is important to note that the name happened in the same period when the USC football program dropped football in preference for rugby. In this, USC was following in the footsteps of both Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, so it should come as no surprise to learn that its performance versus its much better-prepared competitors was nothing short of being disastrous in nature.

8. First Fully-Integrated Team to Play in the State of Alabama

It is interesting to note that the USC Trojans were the first fully-integrated team to play in the state of Alabama. In fact, they won their game with a 42 to 21 score, with all six of the touchdowns having been scored by black players. This was one of the factors that enabled the University of Alabama coach Paul Bryant to convince the university to let black players play, meaning that it had a real impact on racial integration in football programs in Alabama as well as the rest of the Deep South.

9. The Victory Sign Is a Tradition

One of the traditions of the USC Trojans is the victory sign. USC Trojan fans like to claim that this comes from a practice of the ancient Trojans in which they would cut off two fingers on the hands of those they conquered to make it impossible for them to use a sword, but this sounds rather dubious to say the least. We know that there was a historical Troy, but we certainly don’t know enough about its inhabitants to make that kind of claim.

10. Uncertain Origins for the Victory Sign

With that said, no one is sure how the victory sign came into existence. One popular theory is that it started seeing use during the Hundred Years’ War when English longbowmen would hold up their fingers to taunt their French adversaries, who promised to cut off two of their fingers to make it impossible for them to use their bows if they were ever captured. However, this isn’t well-supported by the historical sources. Moreover, one contemporary source actually claims that the practice was to cut off three fingers rather than the two.


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