In 1925, in the University of Notre Dame’s only appearance in the Rose Bowl game, head coach Knute Rockne put together a month-long train ride from Indiana to California, stopping in Memphis, New Orleans, Houston, Tucson and the Bay Area, before settling in to defeat Stanford, 25-10. That famous trip was a bit long, even in 1925, but these days teams rarely, if ever, take trains to travel to college football games.
But another train tradition is solidly in place at the University of Southern California. Each year, the Trojan Marching Band, along with a contingent of alumni and fans, take the Amtrak Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Eugene, Ore., for the Trojans big game against the University of Oregon Ducks. The game, usually a marquee match-up between two top-tier Pac 10 schools, is even bigger this year, with USC ranked no. 12 and Oregon ranked no. 5 in the country.
At 12:48 p.m. Thursday, right on schedule, the train rolled up to the Santa Barbara station, and members of the marching band, cheerleading squad. The famous USC Song Girls stepped out of the cars to get the blood flowing in their legs, and led their fellow train riders and USC fans in a mini-pep rally. The ten or so members of the band who stepped off the train played the familiar USC song traditions, “Fight On,” USC’s fight song, and “Conquest,” a staple of any USC football game. The Song Girls and cheerleaders also led the crowd of about 40 in songs and cheers.
From Santa Barbara, the band was anticipated to make stops in San Luis Obispo, Oakland, Klamath Falls and Eugene, before coming to a stop in Portland sometime Friday afternoon.