VARSITY TEAMS: 20
INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 28
FAMOUS ALUMNI: CHERYL MILLER, O.J. SIMPSON
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: THE SONG GIRLS
En route to his office each day, USC athletic director Mike Garrett passes by display cases containing his 1965 Heisman Trophy and the Heismans won by three other Trojans tailbacks: O.J. Simpson ('68), Charles White ('79) and Marcus Allen ('81). Four Heismans, eight national football titles and an unmatched 28 Rose Bowl appearances certainly qualify Tailback U as a top jock school. Yet Garrett wants more. "I will not be happy unless we win a national title in half of our 20 sports; that's the standard," says Garrett, who saw Southern Cal win five NCAA championships in its 10 sports when he was a freshman in 1962-63.
The Trojans have a remarkable sports heritage. They have won more national team titles (76 men's and 14 women's) than any other school except crosstown rival UCLA. No college has produced more men's individual NCAA champions (271) or Olympians (302, including at least one gold medalist at every Summer Games since 1912), or a more fearsome pitcher-slugger combination ( Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners and Mark McGwire of the Oakland As). Six former USC players have gone on to coach in the NBA, a total surpassed only by Illinois's seven.
But Southern Cal doesn't take its sports too seriously. The intramural program offers everything from inner-tube water polo to a 1970s'-TV-inspired Superstars competition (events include a 100-yard dash, a 50-meter swim and an obstacle course). Near the beginning of the academic year, a dive-in movie such as Jaws is shown on a huge screen at the swimming center to encourage intramural participation; students watch while lounging in inner tubes. In addition, USC offers 40 sports clubs and is just 10 miles from the Pacific. Indoor types flock to the $10.5 million Lyon University Center, which in the words of Don Ludwig, director of intramural recreation, "is wall-to-wall bodies from 3 to 8 p.m."
Still, anytime the entire undergraduate population is referred to in the playbook—in the sweep plays dubbed student body right and student body left—you know football is the main event. The fervor extends even to the student newspaper, the Daily Trojan, which last fall won the annual Blood Bowl flag-football battle against UCLA's Daily Bruin.
No college team can count among its former players a more famous symbol of ruggedness than John Wayne, who under his given name, Marion Morrison, played tackle for Southern Cal for two seasons (1925 and '26), cutting his career short after injuring a shoulder while—of all things—surfing. Nor can any team claim a greater sideline distraction than the song girls (page 84), whose cardinal-and-gold pom-poms and white sweaters are athletic fixtures. If you're in the Los Angeles Coliseum on a football Saturday, you'll see not only the song girls but also Traveller IV, the Trojans' horse mascot. Tens of thousands of fans around you will be waving the V-for-victory hand signal as the 270-plus-member marching band continually blares the intro to the fight song Conquest. If you ignore the balmy sunshine, you might just get chills down your spine.