The (K)nights of Rivalry Week

Once the game clock hit 00:00 last Saturday during the USC vs. Washington upset, the Trojan Knights assumed their position at the base Tommy Trojan in preparation for rivalry week; the seven days leading up to the football game against UCLA. The Knights have been standing under Tommy ever since.

For 24 hours every day, the Trojan Knights are on “Tommy Watch.” About a dozen members seem to be glued to the statue at all times, only leaving the base to occasionally throw around a football. A hammock is set up and sleeping bags unfold during the wee hours of the night. But someone is always watching, protecting the statue from our cross-town rivals. The all-boys organization has been in charge of “Tommy Watch” since 1941, when USC and UCLA began rivalry week prank wars.

“Some of the more infamous pranks include burning the letters, “USC” into a lawn at UCLA with carotene,” Trojan Knight David Munk said. “And allegedly, once a helicopter dumped cow [poop] on Tommy.”

According to Trojan Knight Don Suh, there have not been any prank attempts in the past five days, but there was suspicious activity. At five in the morning on Tuesday, Suh woke up in his sleeping bag to a group of 15 to 20 people standing across the quad from Tommy.

“I was like, what are they doing here? No one is here randomly in a group at five in the morning,” Suh said. “So they approached us with their hands up and said ‘we’re not here to mess with Tommy, we just want a photo with Tommy. Our frat wants us to do that.’”

Suh obliged and took a photo of the rumored pre-med fraternity, but not without the other Knights watching their every move. The Knight plan of action: do not attack unless attacked upon.

“Whether or not they had malicious intent, I don’t know. But us being here is a deterrent,” Suh said.

Although Tommy is their first priority, the Knights also protect the statues of Traveler, John McKay, Judge Widney, the Trojan Sword, and Tirebiter. Tirebiter is housed in a homemade wooden doghouse, while the other statues are wrapped in a duct tape and paper combination to protect them from Bruin pranksters. Always in their traditional cardinal sweaters and ties, it is impossible to pry the Knights away from Tommy.

“We’re all so dedicated, that we just come,” Suh said. “There’s no need for a schedule because it just all works out. During the day, if people have classes and exams, they leave. But one person leaves and three other people come.”

After nearly 168 hours of standing guard, the Knights will venture into rival territory to watch the football team get some revenge of their own. They will finally leave their post just a few hours before the game on Saturday. But up until kick-off, a private security company will continue to scare off any last-minute pranksters.

In the meantime, the Knights are enjoying a few perks that come with the job.

“A lot of the time, the football coach will bring us some food. And President Nikias’s wife makes really good baklava,” Munk said. “So we’re just out here, chowing, studying, and doing our thing.”