I have a hard time relating to the sort of person who would think, of the USC Song Girls, “I gotta get them out of here.” And so I can’t come up with even much of a hypothesis for why USC athletic director Lynn Swann has banished the Song Girls from USC basketball games.
Brady McCollough of the Los Angeles Times took a deep dive into the matter on Friday. The basic situation is, since 1994 USC has had two different dance teams at basketball games — the Song Girls and the Trojan Dance Force.
The distinction between the two is that the Song Girls only dance to music played by the Trojan Marching Band, and the Trojan Dance Force only dances to canned music. So far as anybody seems to be able to tell, that was a satisfactory arrangement for the band, the Song Girls and the Trojan Dance Force.
Just not for Lynn Swann.
On Dec. 1, for the first time since 1968, when the Trojans men hosted Nevada, there were no Song Girls at the Galen Center. And Saturday afternoon, when USC hosts crosstown rival UCLA for a game that will be broadcast nationally on CBS, they will still be absent from the arena, despite a persistent outcry by Song Girl alumni, athletic donors and parents of current Song Girls who can’t fathom why USC would take away opportunities for students to do something they love.
“I don’t feel I’ve gotten an adequate explanation,” said Hilary Hodgkins, the Song Girls’ alumni advisor, “and when I ask, I get stonewalled.
“I don’t understand it. I wish I could answer this question: For the life of me, it makes no sense to me why athletics is even worried about a dance team.”
As you might imagine, this has caused a lot of commotion around USC. Giant groups of former Song Girls have written letters looking for an explanation, and a group of 50 former Song Girls were denied tickets to a basketball game they had planned to attend in solidarity, wearing their signature white sweaters.
USC later agreed to sell them the tickets, but by that time the Song Girls had enough of the drama.
“The Song Girls have always been the epitome of class,” Hodgkins said. “We are not going to do it, because that’s reverse bullying. All we’d be doing is bullying them back. That’s not who we are.”
In press release language, USC is now telling anybody who asks that “game management concerns, time constraints and space issues” are to blame, but the Song Girls still don’t think they’ve gotten an adequate explanation, and I tend to agree with them.