Sometime this week, vandals broke into a wooden box intended to protect the Bruin Bear, a focal point on campus, and spray-painted USC colors on the body and foundation of the statue, UCLA police lieutenant Kevin Kilgore said.
"The only thing we have determined is that someone pried the wooden box open that the bear hibernates in this time of year," Kilgore said, referring to the standard rivalry-week security.
The Bruin Bear is one of a few landmarks on campus that received extra protection in the days leading up to the USC game. Across town, USC wraps Tommy Trojan, a statue and one of the school's most famous landmarks, in duct tape before playing UCLA.
Earlier this week, USC athletic director Lynn Swann delivered cookies and hot chocolate to the USC students protecting their statues.
According to the Daily Bruin, UCLA's student newspaper which first reported the vandalism, a similar incident of vandalism of the Bruin Bear in 2009 was determined to cost over $20,000 to repair.
In a joint statement, USC and UCLA announced both schools would be canceling this year's traditional bonfires at their respective pregame spirit rallies out of respect for the recent wildfires in California.
"We are confident Trojans and Bruins alike will display the very best of the USC and UCLA spirit," the statement from a pair of student affairs officials said. "We expect everyone to show sportsmanship and respect for others, for their universities, but most importantly for themselves."
USC (5-5, 4-4 Pac-12) needs a win over UCLA (2-8, 2-5) or against Notre Dame in its regular-season finale to reach bowl eligibility. Saturday's game is set for 12:30 p.m. PT at the Rose Bowl.