A CITY DIVIDED – History of the USC vs. UCLA Football Rivalry

There is no greater rivalry in college football than USC vs UCLA. Period. Why? it is the only major rivalry where the two sides share a city and so when UCLA squares up against USC, every neighborhood in Los Angeles features homes where it is Husband vs Wife, Father vs Son, or Brother vs Sister. While being interviewed about the game,” former UCLA defensive back James Washington was told, “Rivalry aside, how can a father really hate his son?” To which he cracked back, “Oh, very easily!”

It is with knowledge of how deeply personal the rivalry can be that GameChange co-founders, Paul McDonald, a former USC All-American and NFL quarterback, and Jack Baric, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, set out to make A City Divided, a documentary film about the rivalry. The film chronicles the history of the rivalry from its very first game in 1929 and features various highly personal stories that illustrate the intensity of the game.

Among the storylines: The playful jousting between Trojan NFL Hall of Fame legend Ronnie Lott and his son Ryan Nece, a Super Bowl champion who played for UCLA – and the predicament UCLA grad Paola Sanchez faced wearing a Trojan or Bruin jersey to the game when her brother-in-law Mark was the starting quarterback at USC.

Although the film showcases how the rivalry can divide the city, it also details the humanity and good sportsmanship that was exhibited in one Los Angeles neighborhood when members of the UCLA community supported the family of USC kicker Mario Danelo after he tragically died in a fall.

It is with the spirit of bringing the rivals together that McDonald and Baric worked with Kure It, a non-profit dedicated to cancer research, to form Rivals United for a Kure. The campaign they created together raised funds for the cancer research hospitals at UCLA and USC. Kure It was started by the late Barry Hoeven, a USC grad who started the charity after being diagnosed with kidney cancer and realizing his treatment options were very limited.

Hoeven’s company US Storage sponsored the making of the film, which was broadcast on Fox Sports. The fundraising campaign was kicked off with a red-carpet premiere gala for the film at LA Live. That event was so successful that it launched an annual Game Week gala, which ran for a number of years. To date, Rivals United has netted over $4 million for cancer research.

The story of how the film and charity campaign was started is told at the end of A City Divided by McDonald and Matt Stevens, a former UCLA quarterback who is a cancer survivor. The film can be viewed on the GameChange YouTube page.

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