A Drum Falls Silent
The object below is The Drum, which commemorated the football rivalry between Pomona College and Occidental College for nearly 80 years before Oxy’s decision to end its football program last year brought the tradition to a halt. Pomona-Pitzer’s victory in the final Battle for the Drum on November 9, 2019, means the ceremonial trophy will remain in the Sagehen Athletics archives in perpetuity.
The Oxy-Pomona rivalry predates The Drum itself, with the first football game between Pomona and Occidental played in 1895, only eight years after the founding of Pomona College.
The rivalry was one of the 10 oldest in the U.S.—and the oldest in Southern California, with a 34-year head start on the USC-UCLA game, first played in 1929.
Times have changed on the gridiron, like everywhere else: In 1925, Pomona shut out UCLA, 26-0, for its sixth consecutive win over the Bruins, but lost to Oxy, 6-3.
The Drum itself was introduced in 1941 and presented to Occidental following a 26-14 victory after the alumni associations of the two colleges came up with the idea of a trophy for the annual winner.
Pomona claimed The Drum for the first time in 1942 with a 12-6 win before World War II suspended the rivalry in 1943 and ’44.
Bonfire rallies the night before the Oxy game became a huge tradition. But in 1963, with the nation in shock following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the planned bonfire was instead lit in silent tribute to the fallen president.
A new rivalry slowly began to grow after Claremont-Mudd launched its own football program in 1958. The Battle of Sixth Street eventually eclipsed the Battle for the Drum and now outlives it.
Trouble for the Oxy program was brewing by 2017 as the Tigers forfeited their final four games because the roster was so injury-depleted it raised safety concerns, fueling debate about the role football should play at the college.
Though none of them could have imagined what was ahead, the Sagehens claimed what proved to be the final Battle for the Drum when they won the 2019 game, 63-14, behind senior quarterback Karter Odermann’s 306-yard passing performance.