HOME ~ College Football History
USC's nickname, "Trojans," originated in 1912.
Up to that time, teams from USC were called the Methodists or Wesleyans
and neither nickname was looked upon with favor by university officials.
Athletic Director Warren Bovard, son of university president Dr. George
Bovard, asked Los Angeles Times sports editor Owen Bird to select an
"At this time, the
athletes and coaches of the university were under
terrific handicaps," Bird recalled. "They were facing teams that were
bigger and better-equipped, yet they had splendid fighting spirit. The
name 'Trojans' fitted them.
"I came out with an article prior to a showdown between USC and Stanford
in which I called attention to the fighting spirit of USC athletes and
named them 'Trojan' all the time, and it stuck.
"The term 'Trojan' as applied to USC means to me that no matter what the
situation, what the odds or what the conditions, the completion must be
carried on to the end and those who strive must give all they have and
never be weary in doing so."
Traveler, USC's Mascot
Traveler, the noble white horse that appears at all USC home football
games with a regal Trojan warrior astride, is one of the most famous
Traveler first made an appearance at USC football games in 1961 (in the
home opener versus Georgia Tech). Bob Jani, then USCís director of
special events, and Eddie Tannenbaum, then a junior at USC, had spotted
Richard Saukko riding his white horse, Traveler I, in the 1961 Rose
Parade. They persuaded Saukko to ride his white horse around the
Coliseum during USC games, serving as a mascot. Ever since, whenever USC
scores, the band plays "Conquest" and Traveler gallops around the
Because of poor health, Saukko stopped riding after the 1988 season. His
successors have been alumni: Cass Dabbs, Rick Oas, Tom Nolan, Ardeshir
Radpour, and current riders Chuck O'Donnell, who is also Traveler's
trainer, and Brent Dahlgren, a USC sophomore. (Saukko passed away in
March of 1992.)
The current Trojan mascot is 2-time national champion show horse
Traveler V, a 12-year-old Andalusian gelding who first appeared during
the 1997 season. And waiting in the wings is Traveler VI, a 5-year-old
Even though the breed of horse may have changed over the years ó
Travelers I through IV ranged from an Arabian/Tennessee Walker to a
pure-bred Tennessee Walker to a pure-bred Arabian ó Travelerís color has
always remained pure white.
Saukko first appeared on Traveler in the outfit that actor Charlton
Heston wore in "Ben Hur." That proved to be too cumbersome, so Saukko
crafted his own leather costume in 1962, modeled after the Tommy Trojan
statue on the USC campus (that outfit is still being used). But he still
sometimes wore Hestonís helmet. Interestingly, Saukko was once employed
by Jim Crowley, one of Notre Dameís "Four Horsemen."
Legend has it that Heisman Trophy tailback O.J. Simpson decided to come
to USC after seeing Traveler on a televised football game. And Trojan
faithful swear the horse has an effect on the outcome of games.
"(Former USC coach) John McKay didnít want to admit that the horse had
anything to do with his success," said Saukko, "but heíd always give me
a wink when he saw me waiting in the Coliseum tunnel."
Added former USC All-American defensive back and assistant coach Nate
Shaw: "The horse is one of the greatest inspirational devices USC has.
It definitely got the adrenaline going when I was playing and I think it
still has an effect on the players. When I was coaching against USC (at
Oregon State), we hated to see that horse come down the tunnel because
it got USC a little more pumped up."
Traveler not only appears at Trojan home football games (and even at
some away games, including the 1995 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the farthest
Traveler has traveled), but also at other Trojan events, as well as at
grade and high schools, charity functions and parades (including the
past 40 Rose Parades). Traveler has also appeared on screen (including
"The Battle of the Gunfighter" and "Snowfire"), on stage (including in
the Long Beach Balletís "Nutcracker Ballet"), and in commercials.
Incidentally, Traveler I was not the first equine mascot for Troy. The
first appearance of a white horse at a Trojan football game occurred as
early as 1927, when Louis Shields began a four-year stint aboard a horse
owned by a local banker. In 1948, band director Tommy Walker once had
USC colors carried by a Trojan on a palomino. Then, before kickoff of
the 1954 USC-Pittsburgh game, Arthur J. Gontier III, then a member of
the Trojan Knights spirit group (subbing for another rider who backed
out at the last moment), shakily rode a rented gray/white horse while
donning a costume once worn by actor Jeff Chandler. A more accomplished
rider, USC alum Bob Caswell, and his white horse, Rockazar, took over
the following game and performed until retiring in 1959.
Besides these horses, USC once even had a canine mascot. A mutt named
George Tirebiter I (famous for chasing cars through the USC campus)
first appeared at football games in 1940. He survived a publicized
dognapping by UCLA in 1947, but succumbed under the tires of an
automobile in 1950. He was succeeded by George II for 3 years (1950-52),
then George III for 1 year (1953) and finally George IV for 1 year
Fight On for olí SC
Our men Fight On to victory.
Our Alma Mater dear,
looks up to you
Fight On and win
For olí SC
Fight On to victory
This song is usually played after first downs and touchdowns. The music
for USCís fight song, "Fight On," was composed in 1922 by USC dental
student Milo Sweet (with lyrics by Sweet and Glen Grant) as an entry in
a Trojan spirit contest. In addition to inspiring generations of Trojan
fans and players, the song has been used in numerous recordings and
movies. Legend has it that during World War II in the Pacific, an
American task force attacked an island held by the Japanese. As the
Americans stormed the beach, "Fight On" blared from the deck of one of
the transports. The U.S. men let out a tremendous roar and eventually
won the island.
All hail to Alma Mater,
To thy glory we sing;
All hail to Southern California,
Loud let thy praises ring;
Where Western sky meets Western sea
Our college stands in majesty.
Sing our love to Alma Mater,
Hail, all hail to thee.
The words and music to USCís alma mater, "All Hail," were composed in
the early 1920s by Al Wesson, Troyís longtime sports information
director. He wrote the song as a student member of the Trojan Marching
Band for the finale of a 1923 campus show.
Another famous USC song is the regal processional march, "Conquest," by
Alfred Newman. It is usually played after every USC score and victory.
This stirring battle cry, from Newman's score to the 1947 motion picture
classic "Captain from Castile," has become synonymous with the
championship tradition of USC since the Trojans adopted it in 1950.
Newman, a legendary composer of film music, was the musical director of
Twentieth Century-Fox Studios.
"Tribute To Troy," the incessant stanza of pounding drums and blaring
horns, is played after every defensive stop. "Fanfare" is the
introduction to "Tribute To Troy" and is played when the band takes the
field. "All Right Now" is played after USC gets a turnover. "Another One
Bites the Dust" is played after USC gets a sack. The "William Tell
Overture" is played at the start of the fourth quarter.
The trumpet "Charge," heard often at athletic contests, was composed by
a post-World War II USC student named Tommy Walker. As a member of the
Trojan Marching Band, he was known as "Tommy Trojan," and as a USC
football player, he would shed his band uniform, come down from the
stands, and kick extra points (he lettered in 1947). Upon graduation in
1948, he was hired as the band's director. He later was the first
entertainment director at Disneyland and then went into business as one
of the world's leading creators of show business spectacles (including
Super Bowl halftimes and Olympic opening and closing ceremonies). He
died in 1986.