USC vs. UCLA: A Markowitz Rivalry

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - November 25, 2009
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We’re coming to that time in the college football season when rivalry games take the spotlight. Ohio State-Michigan, Oregon-Oregon State, Arizona-Arizona State, Stanford-Cal, the list goes on and on. Every fall, families revel in the excitement of these big games.

But the biggest game in the Markowitz family of Hawaii Kai takes place this Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum when USC plays host to crosstown rival UCLA. It’s been that way for generations.

First, there is Punahou standout Abe Markowitz, a red-shirt freshman who plays back-up center for this year’s Trojans while wearing No. 50 in honor of his home state. In the early 1970s, Abe’s father Barry was a linebacker at UCLA. A generation before, in the early 1950s, Barry’s father and Abe’s grandfather, Larry, was a halfback and defensive back at USC. And a generation earlier, in the late 1920s, Abe’s great-grandfather Richard Love played basketball and tennis at UCLA.

For four generations, this sports-minded family has gone back and forth between these two heated rivals.

“It hit me after last year’s game when we went back to both teams (both USC and UCLA) wearing our home (color) jerseys,“Abe says, referring to the fact that the teams received an exception to revert back to both wearing their traditional home colors for this one game of the year; cardinal and gold for SC, baby blue and gold for UCLA. “When I play in the Coliseum, it’s incredible that my grandfather played here and my dad did the same, and now I’m just another Markowitz following in that tradition.”

This back-and-forth saga began in the early 1950s when Trojan football player Larry Markowitz married his sweetheart Patty Love, whose father had played sports at UCLA. Larry played on the Southern Cal gridiron alongside two big names from Hawaii, Charley Ane of Punahou and Harold Han of Iolani. But in 1953 the family story is that he was a little jittery in a late October game against Cal.

“He was worried about my mom in labor. She gave birth to me on game day,” Barry says.

Barry grew up a huge fan of the Trojans and even slept under his dad’s letterman’s blanket on cold nights in the family’s San Fernando Valley home. An all-star high school player, he turned down an offer to play at Hawaii, and despite academic acceptance to USC, he caught the attention of UCLA. “My dad told me I could be a ‘gutty little Bruin,’” he recalls.

Barry, now a videographer in the Islands, eventually earned a full-ride scholarship from UCLA where he was coached by former Hawaii coach Dick Tomey as a freshman. He calls his greatest moment against USC “sticking Anthony Davis,” and he proudly shows off a photographic image of that tackle to anyone he meets.

Barry’s son,Abe, grew up in Laie and Hauula, and became an outstanding lineman and championship shot putter and discus thrower at Punahou. He turned down a football scholarship to play at Michigan State to walk on at USC, despite the fact that he grew up loving the Bruins and often slept under his dad’s Bruins blanket as a youngster.

“Sound familiar?” Barry asks. Abe’s USC line coach Pat Ruel says the younger Markowitz is making a name for himself. “He’s really improved so much and made great strides. I fully expect him to be very much a factor next year,” Ruel says. “He was a little under-sized at first, but now he’s just fine.”

That’s because Abe has grown between two and three inches since he played at Punahou and now stands more than 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighs about 290 pounds. “I was surprised to see how tall he was when I saw him (this season),” Barry says.

That growth spurt allows local fans a chance to easily spot No. 50 on the sidelines of this week’s nationally televised USC-UCLA game. On the opposite (UCLA) sidelines will be other Oahu players: Dalton Hilliard (Punahou) Stan Hasiak (Kapolei), Eddie Williams (Damien) and Charles Soon (Kamehameha).

“After every Pac-10 game, I’m running into players from Hawaii. It’s great,” Abe says.

Asked if there was the probability that when he has his own son, that his son would end up going to the opposite sidelines and wear a Bruins’ uniform.

“Who knows?” he says. “It might happen - for us, it’s become a tradition.”

And the big game rivalry continues.

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