USC and Claremont McKenna: A Closer Look at the Rivalry

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A female student doing her letters of recommendation on the laptop

USC and Claremont McKenna: A Closer Look at the Rivalry

The rivalry between the University of Southern California (USC) and Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is one that has been ongoing for decades. This rivalry is one of the most intense in higher education and is centered around academics, athletics, and campus life. In this article, we will take a closer look at this rivalry to gain a better understanding of its history, impact, and future prospects.

History of the Rivalry Between USC and Claremont McKenna

The rivalry between USC and CMC can be traced back to the 1930s when the two universities first began competing in athletics. Over time, this rivalry developed into a more intense academic and campus life competition as both universities continued to grow and evolve. Today, rivalry is a major aspect of life at both USC and CMC, and many students and alumni are deeply invested in it.

One of the most notable moments in the history of the USC-CMC rivalry occurred in 1969 when USC students painted the CMC mascot, a bronze statue of a stag, red and gold in the middle of the night.

This act of vandalism sparked outrage among CMC students and faculty and led to increased tensions between the two universities. However, in the years since, the rivalry has become more good-natured, with both universities engaging in friendly competitions and events.

A Comparison of the Two Universities: Academics, Athletics, and Campus Life

USC and CMC are both highly regarded universities that offer a range of rigorous academic programs, world-class athletics facilities, and vibrant campus life. However, there are also some key differences between the two universities that make them unique.

USC, for example, is known for its strong academic programs in business, engineering, and medicine, as well as its highly competitive athletics programs. The university boasts one of the largest campus enrollments in the United States, and its sprawling campus is home to numerous academic and research facilities, as well as vibrant social and cultural events.

College students walking in the campus.

CMC, on the other hand, is a smaller, liberal arts university located in Claremont, California. The university is known for its highly selective admissions process, rigorous academic programs, and thriving campus life. CMC also boasts a highly regarded athletics program, with its Stags and Athenas teams competing in Division III of the NCAA.

Another key difference between USC and CMC is their approach to education. USC is a research-focused university, with a strong emphasis on hands-on learning and practical experience. Students at USC have access to a wide range of research opportunities, internships, and industry partnerships, which can help them gain valuable skills and experience in their chosen field.

CMC, on the other hand, is a liberal arts college that emphasizes critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, and interdisciplinary learning. The college offers a broad-based education that encourages students to explore a range of subjects and develop a well-rounded perspective on the world.

The Impact of the Rivalry on Students and Alumni

The USC-CMC rivalry has had a significant impact on both students and alumni from both universities. Many current and former students view the rivalry as a defining aspect of their college experience, and the tournaments and events associated with the rivalry attract large crowds of supporters from both sides.

For alumni, the rivalry often represents a sense of community and camaraderie that extends well beyond their years on campus. Many alumni remain actively involved in the rivalry, attending events, sponsoring scholarships, and supporting student organizations and programs at both universities.

Additionally, the rivalry has also sparked friendly competition between the two universities in various academic and professional fields. USC and CMC alumni often find themselves competing for the same job positions or business opportunities, and the rivalry adds an extra layer of motivation and drive to succeed. This healthy competition has led to a strong network of successful professionals from both universities, who often collaborate and support each other in their respective industries.

Famous Alumni from Both Universities

Both USC and CMC are home to a number of notable alumni who have made significant contributions to various fields. Some of the most famous alumni from USC include actress and singer Barbra Streisand, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and former US President Richard Nixon.

CMC, on the other hand, has a number of well-known alumni of its own, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Franzen, billionaire investor and philanthropist David Booth, and former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Another notable USC alumni is filmmaker George Lucas, who is best known for creating the Star Wars franchise. Lucas has won numerous awards for his work in the film industry and has been a major influence on modern cinema.

CMC also boasts a number of successful business leaders among its alumni, including former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, and co-founder of PayPal, Max Levchin. These individuals have made significant contributions to the world of finance and technology.

Sports Rivalry of USC and Claremont McKenna

The USC-CMC rivalry is perhaps most well-known for its intense sports competition. The USC Trojans and CMC Stags have been competing against each other in a variety of sports for decades, and the rivalry has spurred numerous memorable and heated contests over the years.

View of a coach using a whistle during practice.

One of the most notable recent matches between the two universities came in 2018 when the USC Trojans men’s tennis team faced off against the CMC Stags in the NCAA Division III championship game. The match was a thriller, with USC eventually prevailing in a close three-set victory.

Aside from sports, the rivalry between USC and CMC extends to academics as well. Both universities are highly regarded for their academic programs, and students from both schools often compete for internships, research opportunities, and jobs after graduation. The rivalry has even led to friendly academic competitions, such as debate tournaments and academic quizzes.

Another aspect of the USC-CMC rivalry is the social scene. USC is known for its large, bustling campus and lively party scene, while CMC is known for its smaller, more intimate campus and focus on academic and professional development.

The two schools often clash in social settings, with USC students sometimes seen as rowdy and CMC students seen as uptight. However, many students from both schools have formed friendships and even romantic relationships despite the rivalry.

The Role of Social Media in Fueling the Rivalry: Memes and Hashtags

The rivalry between USC and CMC has also been fueled in recent years by the rise of social media. Online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have become a breeding ground for memes, hashtags, and other forms of online content that celebrate or poke fun at the two universities.

While social media has served as a powerful tool for connecting students, alumni, and supporters from both universities, it has also been the site of some controversy. Some students and alumni have expressed concern that the rivalry has become too toxic or that online trolling and harassment have taken away from the fun and good-natured competition that the rivalry is known for.

Despite the concerns, social media has also provided a platform for students and alumni to come together and support important causes. In recent years, both USC and CMC students have used social media to organize fundraisers, awareness campaigns, and other events that benefit their respective communities and beyond. This shows that while the rivalry may be intense, there is also a sense of camaraderie and shared values between the two universities.

Campus Traditions and Events that Fuel the Rivalry

The rivalry between USC and CMC is fueled in large part by a series of campus traditions and events that take place throughout the year. These events include everything from head-to-head sports competitions and tournaments to cultural and social events that bring students from both universities together in friendly competition.

Group of students working together and talking.

Some of the most anticipated events associated with the rivalry include the annual football game between the USC Trojans and CMC Stags, as well as numerous other sporting contests, debates, and artistic performances.

One of the most unique traditions that fuels the USC-CMC rivalry is the annual “Pranksgiving” competition. This event takes place the week before Thanksgiving and involves students from both universities attempting to outdo each other with elaborate pranks and stunts. The competition is judged by a panel of faculty members and alumni, and the winning team earns bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Notable Moments in USC and Claremont McKenna Rivalry

Over the years, the USC vs CMC rivalry has produced numerous notable moments and events that have helped shape the history and culture of both universities. Some of the most memorable moments include the 1953 football game between USC and CMC, which USC won in a controversial decision by the referees, and the 1985 debate between CMC’s debate team and a team from USC, which ultimately resulted in a win for CMC.

Another notable moment in the USC vs CMC rivalry occurred in 1997 during a basketball game. The game was tied with only a few seconds left on the clock when USC’s star player attempted a game-winning shot. However, CMC’s defense was able to block the shot, leading to a fast break and a game-winning layup for CMC. The crowd erupted in cheers as CMC celebrated their victory over their rival.

How Has the Rivalry Evolved Over Time?

The rivalry between USC and CMC has evolved significantly over time, reflecting changes in both universities’ academic programs, athletics, and campus culture. Today, the rivalry is more intense than ever, but it also reflects a more diverse and inclusive campus community than in years past.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Recent years have seen both universities place a greater emphasis on cultivating a sense of community and collaboration among students, faculty, and alumni from diverse backgrounds. This has helped to cultivate a more positive and inclusive rivalry culture that celebrates the strengths and achievements of both universities, rather than pitting them against each other.

One notable change in the rivalry has been the increased focus on philanthropy and community service. Both USC and CMC have implemented programs and initiatives aimed at giving back to their respective communities and making a positive impact on society. This has led to a more collaborative and cooperative relationship between the two universities, as they work together towards a common goal of making a difference in the world.

Similarities and Differences in Campus Culture Between USC and Claremont McKenna

While USC and CMC are both highly respected universities with numerous similarities in terms of academic programs, athletics, and campus culture, there are also some key differences between the two. For example, USC is a larger university with a more diverse student body, while CMC is a smaller, more tightly-knit community with a highly selective admissions process.

Despite these differences, students and alumni from both universities share a deep sense of pride in their institutions and the unique strengths and accomplishments that define them. One notable similarity between USC and CMC is their commitment to providing students with a well-rounded education.

Both universities offer a wide range of extracurricular activities, including clubs, sports teams, and volunteer opportunities, that allow students to explore their interests and develop new skills outside of the classroom.

Another difference between the two universities is their location. USC is located in the heart of Los Angeles, a bustling city with endless opportunities for entertainment and cultural enrichment. In contrast, CMC is situated in Claremont, a small town in the suburbs of Los Angeles, which offers a more peaceful and intimate setting for students to focus on their studies.

The Socioeconomic Divide Between Students at USC and Claremont McKenna

One issue that has continued to emerge in recent years in conversations about the USC-CMC rivalry is the socioeconomic divide between the two universities. USC is a larger and more diverse university with a higher number of low-income and first-generation students, while CMC is a smaller and more selective university that caters primarily to students from higher-income backgrounds.

Group of students walking in the campus.

While both universities are committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, some students and alumni have raised concerns about the potential for the rivalry to exacerbate these socioeconomic divides or to create an environment that is unwelcoming for certain students and perspectives.

One potential solution to address this issue is for both universities to collaborate on initiatives that promote socioeconomic diversity and inclusion. This could include joint programs or events that bring together students from both universities to discuss and address issues related to socioeconomic inequality. Additionally, both universities could work to increase access to resources and support for low-income and first-generation students, such as mentorship programs and financial aid opportunities.

It is important to recognize that the socioeconomic divide between USC and CMC is not unique to these universities, but rather a broader issue within higher education. By working together and addressing this issue head-on, USC and CMC have the opportunity to set an example for other universities and create a more equitable and inclusive higher education system for all students.

The Role of Academia at USC and Claremont McKenna

At its core, the rivalry between USC and CMC is driven by a competitive spirit that is deeply ingrained in both universities’ academic cultures. Both universities are committed to promoting excellence, innovation, and critical thinking, and this ethos has helped to shape the rivalry into a dynamic and challenging competition that inspires students and faculty from both sides.

However, the potential for this competitive spirit to evolve into toxicity or exclusion is a concern for many students and alumni, and both universities are actively working to promote a more positive and inclusive academic and campus culture for all members of their communities.

One factor that has contributed to the intensity of the USC-CMC rivalry is the proximity of the two universities. Located just 30 miles apart, USC and CMC are both situated in the greater Los Angeles area, which is known for its competitive and fast-paced culture.

This close proximity has led to frequent interactions between students and faculty from both universities, which has further fueled the rivalry and created a sense of camaraderie and shared experience among members of each community.


The rivalry between USC and CMC is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that reflects the strengths, achievements, and challenges of both universities. While the rivalry has helped to inspire and motivate generations of students and alumni from both universities, it also represents an opportunity for growth, collaboration, and inclusivity as both universities continue to expand and evolve in the years ahead.

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