During USC Trojans Head Coach Lincoln Riley’s media availability on Thursday, I asked him about his perception of the USC-UCLA rivalry and how it compares to other historic rivalries that he has been a part of. Here is what he said:
Hey, coach, how are you doing?
Good. How about you?
Good. Appreciate it. You’ve coached in a lot of rivalry games and got your first taste of, you know, the Victory Bell game last year. So one, how would you compare this rivalry to others that you’ve coached in such as Bedlam and others, and then two, in this era of the transfer portal, do you as a coaching staff do anything to instill the traditions of this rivalry? Or do you lean more on, you know, veteran players like Calen Bullock, and Justin Dedich that have played in this game multiple times?
Uh, yeah. First, how’s it different? I mean, I think the difference you feel is that they’re just, you know, the schools are separated by just a handful of miles. And that, to me is the biggest difference. Never really played in a game like that, where you’re just located, you know, so close to one another. And, I played in a lot of games where the rosters know each other well, but this one maybe even much more. ’cause a lot of these guys, you know, went to high school together or played against each other with so many Southern California kids on each roster. So, that part certainly feels different.
And then I think the other thing to me that’s different, obviously I haven’t had this one at home yet. We’ll have it here Saturday, but the fact that it happens in two different iconic venues, um, to me is also a really, really cool piece of this. So yeah, they’re all special. This one is very special in its own right. Um, last year was obviously a lot of fun and, you know, I’m sure this will be a barn burner as well, so, um, I very much appreciate getting a coach in it.
Um, the second part of your question was, uh, in terms of the roster education, Yeah, for sure. We spend time with the guys, some in the off-season and some, you know, as the week gets closer on just understanding the history of this rivalry, you know, what it’s meant to both schools, what it’s meant to college football, um, kind of how it’s unique.
I don’t know that we go too crazy over the top with it, but we want them to have an awareness that like, this is a special game. Like this is one that, you know, 20, 30 years down the road, you’re gonna remember these rivalry games that you played in here. At USC, you’re gonna remember every single game that you played against UCLA. And so don’t miss that opportunity. So yeah, it’s one of the great things about coming here is you get to do some of these historic things. And we certainly want their awareness there, so they don’t miss the moment.
This is a special rivalry that needs more national attention. BIG 10 exposure will certainly help next year, but these teams also need to be consistently ranked in the Top 25 to have that big game feel. Unfortunately, this year’s installment won’t have any major “big-game” implications, but it is still such an important moment for the city of Los Angeles and for each school.
The action begins on Saturday at 12:30 PM PT at the Coliseum. I hope to see you all there!