Yesterday I announced the creation of the College Dual Meet Hall of Fame, an attempt to honor its history and traditions.
Today I’m announcing the initial honoree. It’s not an athlete or a coach, but a rivalry. There could only be one such rivalry to choose first, and that’s USC versus UCLA.
The meet is intense, it is usually competitive, and it really matters.
The meet’s greatest moments came in the 1960s and 70s, after UCLA finally broke USC’s 33-year winning streak. Jim Perry, former USC sports information director:
The atmosphere was electric, almost like a USC-UCLA football game or basketball game. Drake Stadium, where most of the meets were held (USC competed in the Coliseum into the mid- or late 1960s), was usually overflowing with fans, and hundreds more would line the fence behind the running track. Fans would often chant or clap for support as one of the athletes ran down the runway in the long jump or triple jump. If a runner pulled ahead to win in the stretch, his team’s fans would roar as if he had scored a touchdown in football. And, after winning a big race or a field event, athletes would be mobbed by their teammates. Meanwhile, the USC and UCLA bands played to celebrate victories or for additional support. It was a great scene.
Crowds of over 10,000 spectators were once common, and it was not unusual to see more people watching that meet than the NCAA Championships. The meet may be the only college dual meet to twice be the subject of feature articles in Sports Illustrated.
The depth of talent to have competed in this rivalry is unbelievable. In virtually every event, competitors have gone on to win Olympic medals and set world records. You can throw out names from the past like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Parry O’Brien, Rafer Johnson, Gail Devers, Don Quarrie, Bob Seagren, Earl McCullouch, Greg Foster, Ato Boldon, Willie Banks, Dwight Stones, Mike Powell…I can go on and on. I’m leaving out more of the all-time greats than I’ve mentioned.
The list of active alumni would beat most national teams: Meb Keflezighi, Ginnie Powell, Joanna Hayes, Jesse Williams, Nicole Leach, Amy Acuff, Felix Sanchez…And who will be the future heroes coming out of this meet?
The page honoring this meet is a collection of information. I have scores from every year, along with the site and attendance (where known) and links to results (where I have found them). I have meet records, links to the USC-UCLA Dual Hall of Fame, and links to online resources about the history of the meet. If you have anything to add–information, links, photos, memories–by all means send it along. I’m housing the data but I’m hoping this is a collective effort.
Tomorrow, another honoree: a venue. Can you guess which one it is?