There is perhaps no tradition that better encapsulates Bruin spirit than the Eight-Clap. Performed at nearly all of UCLA’s sports games and taught before any lecture at new student orientation, the Eight-Clap is a staple of campus culture.
A Bruin started the Eight-Clap in 1948, shortly after Spring Sing began at UCLA. Now, 75 years later, it has evolved into much more than one student’s creation. The song, “Sons of Westwood,” which uses new lyrics to the UC Berkeley song “Big C, Sons of California” was adopted by the UCLA Bruin Marching Band in the 1960s and is often accompanied by the Eight-Clap. Similar patterns have continued with more recent Bruin chants, such as the “Mighty Bruins” by award-winning composer Bill Conti, which was commissioned by the UCLA Alumni Association to commemorate the school’s 50th anniversary.
The Eight-Clap was one of the earliest UCLA sports traditions, with many songs, traditions and unifying features following: things that Bruins hold dear and carry long after leaving campus. Over the years, the Eight-Clap has taken on new forms. Beginning in 2009, the UCLA Alumni YouTube channel posts an annual video called “8-Clap Heard Around the World,” where UCLA alumni from all over the globe send in videos of themselves performing the famed cheer.
UCLA alumnus Terrance Terich, a former English major who now teaches high school English courses in Seattle, still carries those UCLA traditions with him 29 years later and two states away. “I taught the Eight-Clap to my students for fun so they could see what a college cheer is like,” said Terich.
When he was a Bruin, Terich was incredibly spirited. He had the football and basketball season passes for multiple years, attending nearly every home football and basketball game as well as some away games. He recalls doing the Eight-Clap multiple times during each sports game, which was practiced by the entire audience including the alumni band. He also went to the end-of-year concerts, where he saw Lenny Kravitz, Blind Melon and Radiohead perform on campus.
Terich even recalls the campus myths told at New Student Orientation. However, despite remembering the Eight-Clap and wearing school memorabilia, Terich lost touch with the university; he only attended one football game after graduating and is only in contact with one of the many friends he made. “I wish I had done more after,” Terich said. “I miss it and I miss the campus.”
Comparing alumni experience with that of current students, there are some things that continue to unite all Bruins despite the many changes on campus. Recent graduate Richard Tirado, who studied biology as an undergraduate, recalled the various Bruin traditions he experienced, many of them identical to those nearly 30 years ago. He also remembered the myths and legends tour from orientation. “Now every time I hear the tours going around and see the Inverted Fountain, it feels full circle,” Tirado said.
“I went to Bruin Bash, had the Den Pass for basketball games and went to the UCLA-USC game; it was fun,” Tirado said, reflecting on his freshman year. He made most of his friends in the study rooms on the Hill, people he remains close to four years later. “It’s something to be proud of, going to UCLA,” Tirado said. “Every time I have the opportunity to say I go to UCLA, I state it with pride.”
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and UCLA transitioned to remote learning, Tirado felt disconnected from his friends, campus and the perks of being in Los Angeles. “We’re lucky we get to go to school in LA, all the museums, concerts, exhibits,” said Tirado, who took advantage of Westwood and the greater LA area during his time there. Even after in-person classes resumed, there was fear of the pandemic’s return and anxiety about social interaction.
Tirado stopped attending UCLA events and sports games and has even forgotten the famed Eight-Clap. He hoped to get back in touch with his school and attend events once more, but Tirado isn’t the only one who lost connection with the campus during the pandemic. The “8-Clap Heard Around the World” alumni video tradition hasn’t resumed since the pandemic. The last annual video was recorded four years ago, in 2019.
While COVID-19 dampened many of the returning Bruins, students entering campus in a post-pandemic era were vitalized with new school spirit. Third-year computer science student Chloe Brandon attends a majority of the football games. “I like going with my family and being able to show off our school, especially when we win,” Brandon said.
Even though she learned the Eight-Clap during the same remote orientation, where Bruin-tization involved dipping one’s hand in a cup of water instead of in the Inverted Fountain, Brandon still knows it by heart and performs it at every game. Attending UCLA athletic events allows her to see Bruin spirit at its zenith. “Sometimes you don’t realize how many people identify with UCLA,” Brandon said. Despite the remote start at UCLA, she’s made a lot of friends and found a solid community. “There’s really people for everyone here, that’s part of being in a big school,” she said.
While the Eight-Clap may not mean as much to Tirado as it did to Terich, there are just as many students like Brandon, and there are more new students on the way, about to become immersed in campus traditions both old and new. Post-COVID-19 classes no longer have that disconnect, and students are able to spark conversation with their fellow Bruins wearing blue and gold. As Tirado said, “We’re all proud we go to UCLA, even taking away sports from it, you still get to feel like being on a sports team.”
Illustration by Divya Hebba/BruinLife.