The Nebraska-UCLA game drew 71,530 fans to the Rose Bowl last week, but I’m still convinced there were more Nebraska fans in attendance. Nebraska fans were loud. They were proud. They were a moving Red Sea in UCLA’s historic home venue. But in the second half — and certainly in the waning minutes when Nebraska’s fall was all but inevitable — UCLA fans grew louder, stronger, even feistier. They pounded their chest, flexed their muscles ala Johnathan Franklin. The press box felt small tremors. That’s how loud it was. For as long as anyone can remember, UCLA fans finally were proud. They let it be known with a roaring thunder on Franklin’s 9-yard touchdown pass from Brett Hundley with 2:13 left in the game. The atmosphere in the aftermath was electric, and UCLA players took notice. The plea came after the game via Twitter from UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr: “I’ve never had so much fun playing. Can the Rose Bowl be like that every Sturday please!!”
There you have it. A plea from one of your own. After last week’s performance there’s no reason to think UCLA can’t improve on last year’s attendance figures.
UCLA was second in the Pac-12 in attendance last year, averaging 56,644 fans in six home games. The Rose Bowl’s capacity is 91,500 and the Bruins were 31st in the nation in attendance according to figures released by the NCAA last year. UCLA had decent crowds last year. The Bruins had 42,685 against San Jose State in the home opener. That figure jumped the following week to 54,583 against Texas. The Pac-12 opener three weeks later drew 64,217 against Washington State. Those aren’t numbers to sniff at, but in a stadium with a capacity of over 90,000 it’s no wonder the Rose Bowl can sometimes look half empty.
The home opener against Nebraska last week undoubtedly was going to drive up figures because of the Huskers’ strong fan base that travels well. On top of that, Nebraska was coming in as a nationally-ranked team with an explosive offense in tow. The intrigue was there, and coupled with the fact UCLA won its season opener in similar fashion meant fans were in for a slug fest.
But I’ll ask my question again: what’s it going to take for UCLA fans to sell out the Rose Bowl? Must there always be an incentive that a big-time school is in town? Shouldn’t the Bruins’ 49-24 win over Rice in the opener have been enough? UCLA is 2-0, but if you’re a betting man do you put your money on the Rose Bowl’s attendance figure to drop, remain the same or eclipse the home opener’s figure?
UCLA still is not in session and weeks away before students get back to the grind, which probably explains why the UCLA band was forced to play the national anthem from the stands and no halftime show to show for it.
Say the figure drops this week for Houston … fine, I think the players can live with fans in the 50,000-range, but there’s no reason why fans can’t be as lively as they were last week. There’s no reason for the stadium not to be rocking and roaring come Saturday. It’s a night game, giving fans the chance to get the party started early and into the sunset, all before kickoff.
After all, your UCLA Bruins are 2-0. They’re No. 2 in the nation in total offense with the nation’s leading rusher in Johnathan Franklin.
UCLA is showing promise and signs that it’s one step closer to reaching the upper echelon of college football.
It’s time for UCLA fans to do the same.