I feel as if I need to start this article with a disclaimer. Recently, someone asked me: “if you could wa..."/> I feel as if I need to start this article with a disclaimer. Recently, someone asked me: “if you could wa..."/>

UCLA Needs to Ditch the Rose Bowl


I feel as if I need to start this article with a disclaimer. Recently, someone asked me: “if you could watch only one sporting event a year, what would it be?” To me, the answer is easy. Not the Super Bowl, not Sunday at the Masters, not the NBA Finals or the World Series, not Round 1 of March Madness, and not even the National Championship of NCAA Football. Every year, no matter the participants, I get most excited over the pageantry, tradition, and history of the Rose Bowl.

Growing up in the Midwest, it seems fitting I would pick this. The Big10 champion went there every year of my life until a Miami Nebraska title game in 2002. The next year, Oklahoma went and faced Washington State. Then, Texas a couple of times, and last year, TCU. Even despite the loss of the traditional Pac-10-BigTen match up, the game has maintained its status as “The Granddaddy of them All.”

So I have great memories of Tyrone Wheatley, Jake Plummer, Charles Woodson, Ryan Leaf, Steve Emtman, Ron Dayne, Keyshawn Johnson, and Ki-Jana Carter. In the 1990s, the Rose Bowl crowned 2 national champions (1991 Washington and 1997 Michigan), and crushed the dreams of Arizona State in 1997 (and Penn State in 1995 should have at least been a co-champion with Nebraska). I remember the players. I remember the teams. I remember the games. And of course, I remember the stadium.

A jewel in the hills of Pasadena, the Rose Bowl seemed to always offer the most lush grass, the finest painted end zones and sidelines, perfectly arranged rows of seats, and of course, the greatest sunsets in America. Beyond the game that annually offered up two of the best teams in the nation, the Rose Bowl was and is a festival for the eyes.

The U.S. National Landmark has hosted five Super Bowls (11, 14, 17, 21, 27), 2 Summer Olympics, the 1994 World Cup Finals, the 1999 Womens World Cup finals, and of course, the Rose Bowl game. It also hosts UCLA football.

In recent years, UCLA football hasn’t lived up to the prestige of the Rose Bowl. But it shouldn’t have to. UCLA moved out of the Coliseum in 1982 and into the Rose Bowl, which is a good sixty to ninety minutes away from the UCLA campus in Westwood.

And that is where the main problem lies with having the Rose Bowl play host to UCLA games. It isn’t the lack of luxury boxes, ample parking, or overall beautiful atmosphere of the stadium. It is the proximity, or lack there of, to the campus of UCLA. Last year, UCLA averaged 60,000 people per home game. Not bad at all when you consider there is another more successful college team across town, and getting anyone together in Los Angeles for one event is not the easiest thing in the world. Los Angeles won’t be confused with Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the stadium becomes the third biggest city in the state, and people literally live and breathe Alabama football. But when you factor in that the Rose Bowl holds 91,000 people, the tenth largest in the nation, it appears as if no one is showing up for UCLA football. Any stadium that is two-thirds full seems underwhelming, does not attract recruits, and does not produce the great home field advantage a team such as UCLA deserves.

While there may not be a “centrally located” spot in Los Angeles to build a stadium, one should look first to the campus of UCLA. A new stadium does not need to match the size of the Rose Bowl, but instead could be in the 65-70k range. While this would seem like a drastic downgrade, one should realize this would still be the 5th largest stadium in the Pac-12, behind only USC, Washington, Cal, and Arizona State. And if we learn anything from Autzen Stadium, purportedly one of the loudest stadiums, it is that attendance does not equal decibel level – (the stadium in Eugene, Oregon only holds 54,000).

What is most lost by playing across town, however, is the loss of a strong tradition and community. While one can go to the parking lot of the Rose Bowl and tailgate, it pales in comparison to the communities that have been established in Columbus, Oxford, Knoxville, Austin, Gainesville, Athens, and even Los Angeles – only at USC.

I am convinced that parents, boosters, and alumni all love coming back to campus because, well….. isn’t that obvious? People are, and forever will be, enamored with college – it is why we have narratives such as “Animal House,” and “Old School.” It is called the ‘best years of our lives.’ Parents love reading the student newspaper, seeing the student union, the architecture, and the fraternities and sororities. Dads love to grill for their sons and friends while the moms go shopping in the bookstore. These are traditions that UCLA does not have – not because they don’t have an immaculate, beautiful campus (they do), but simply because they play their games twenty-five miles east of their campus. UCLA games have become tantamount to a professional game; where fans go to the stadium and hang out in the parking lot and do nothing else. Hang out in a parking lot, or hang out in a quad surrounded by trees, fields, libraries, and other buildings that are a hundred years old…..which do you prefer?

The argument has always been that UCLA is a ‘basketball school.’ Granted, they have historically been better in basketball than football, and have better attendance numbers at basketball games, but keep in mind that the historic Pauley Pavilion is a stone’s throw away from the UCLA dorms and apartments, while the historic Rose Bowl is an exhausting ninety-minute drive. And we have only been talking about the fans so far – what about the players? How are you supposed to have a home field advantage when it is set up this way?

It could be argued that a prospective recruit should be drawn to UCLA because he gets to play in the Rose Bowl six times a year. While the Rose Bowl is an incredible stadium, so is the Coliseum….as is, Sanford, the Horseshoe, Michigan Stadium, Darrel K. Royal, Death Valley, the other Death Valley, etc. And in all of those examples, one does not need to traverse across the second most populated city in America to get to the stadium.

I have a lot of great memories of the Rose Bowl, but unfortunately, none involve UCLA regular season games. If you’re UCLA, its tough to live up to all the great events the Rose Bowl Stadium has produced. But, you can create your own tradition and history with a stadium of your own. If you continuously sell out a sixty thousand-seat stadium on your campus, then you will create a true home field advantage. Then, when you do go to the Rose Bowl, it will be for the Rose Bowl game, which will make it all the more special.