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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

USA Today Profiles the Herd

A 2005 article from the USA Today about The Thundering Herd

Southern Cal 'Herds' in the faithful

By Allison Rupp, USA TODAY

Before the Thundering Herd arrived, Southern California's home, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, was nicknamed the "Mausoleum" because it was so quiet.

A group of online bloggers who gave the Coliseum the nickname began complaining on in 1999 about the atmosphere in the stadium.

"There were people there that couldn't name three starters," says Shorty Clarke, a founder of the Herd. "There were people on their cellphones. If you stood up, nine people behind you would yell, 'Sit down and be quiet.' "

After two years of posting complaints on an online message board, the Thundering Herd, named after Howard Jones' national championship teams from 1928 and 1931, emerged in 2001, when Pete Carroll became head coach.

"Right from the start ... they were a legion of loyal fans that started to rally support and encouragement," Carroll wrote in an e-mail.

The Thundering Herd started as a small group of fans who asked for seats together. The school sold them tickets surrounding the tunnel where the players enter the field. Since then, the Herd has grown in numbers and decibels. Clarke says they are now restricted to 200 tickets on each side of the tunnel.

"It seems like they are getting bigger every year," says Tom Malone, the Trojans' punter. "They're always there ... to give you that extra bit of energy before you hit the field."

Offensive tackle Sam Baker remembers how loud they were during a win against California last year. He says he appreciates how the Herd is just as loud at the end of the game as the beginning.

"Most of the fans have gone, but the Herd is still sitting there cheering," he says. "Sometimes at the end we throw our gloves up into the (stands) or we even jump ourselves. It's kind of like the 'Lambeau Leap' (Green Bay) where they catch us."

Herd members are from all over the country. One of the founders, Brooks Wilson, is 77. One member owns 3 acres in Malibu while another saves money all year to afford tickets. Clarke travels from McCall, Idaho, for the games. Sometimes he flies, but most of the time he drives 17 hours because the Herd needs his Suburban for the tailgates.

Herders fly in from Michigan and Iowa or drive from Sacramento or Arizona. "One time I was at the airport in Alabama and wearing my Thundering Herd hat," Clarke says. "And somebody recognized it."

The Thundering Herd donates the money it raises from tailgating, T-shirt sales and other events to the team. Last summer it donated a six-seat cart for transporting recruits around the campus.

(c) USA TODAY 10/19/2005

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