Build a calendar full of brand names and they will come.
It was Kelly Chip‘s message Monday when the UCLA the coach addressed the team Rose Bowl attendance down. Already this season, the Bruins have drawn the two smallest crowds since they began inhabiting the venerable stadium in 1982, including 29,344 on Saturday against South Alabama.
“The attendance, I think when you look at it, especially here on the west coast, is probably relative to your opponent and really knowledge of the opponent,” Kelly said, alluding to a lack of awareness in the south. from Alabama.
“People know the name of USL [a UCLA opponent last season that drew 68,123]. I think what I lost a bit is that you don’t understand that southern Alabama, just because it’s a regional school in the Sun Belt [Conference]but it’s as good a football team as we’ve played for the past two years… but they don’t have name recognition and I understand that.
UCLA’s unnamed schedule which also included Bowling green and Alabama State – a Football Championship Subdivision opponent the Bruins added after Michigan pulled out two games – left him with an average home attendance of 30,072 that ranks 10e in the Pac-12, above only Oregon State (26,475) and Washington State (24,422). (For context, Oregon State’s capacity was reduced to 26,407 during Reser Stadium renovations.) The Bruins’ number is less than half of the 63,670 that USC averaged their first two home games.
Kelly pointed out that students did not return to class until this week, a challenge faced by other schools in the quarter system like Stanford. The Cardinal drew just 26,826 for a game against Colgate before hosting a crowd of 43,813 against USC the following week.
Hall of Fame Quarterback Troy Aikman tore fans apart of his alma mater on Twitter on Saturday, calling the attendance “embarrassing” while acknowledging his top-ranked Bruins couldn’t fill the Rose Bowl for a game against Washington State in 1988.
Aikman called for the construction of a 30,000-seat stadium on campus while adding a caveat.
“If we can’t play better than today,” Aikman wrote, “it would also be half empty.”
Kelly said he expects crowds to grow as UCLA enters its Pac-12 schedule, but the Bruins’ conference opener at home against No. 18 Washington Sept. 30 figures to draw a smaller-than-normal crowd because it falls on a Friday, adding rumbling traffic to the list of reasons not to attend. The Bruins’ last home game on Friday, against Utah in October 2018, drew 41,848.
Andrus out for a year
Barring a medical waiver that would provide a seventh season of eligibility, Martin Andrus Jr.’s college career is over.
The defensive lineman who suffered two serious knee injuries to return late last season is out for 2022 after suffering another unspecified injury in the third quarter on Saturday.
“It’s overwhelming because you watched it in rehab,” Kelly said, her eyes shining. “He’s a sixth year kid who came back, took advantage of the COVID year, worked so hard and played really, really well for us. … He’s a special young man, he’ll get over this the way he’s overcome the others, but it’s the fact that he doesn’t end up the way he wanted to, it’s hard and it’s tough.
The absences of Andrus and fellow defensive lineman Gary Smith III, who was also injured on Saturday, left the Bruins with just four inside defensive linemen who were not in scouting team jerseys at practice on Monday. One of them, Dovid Magna, was a former extra and another, Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi, is a converted linebacker.
There were more encouraging injury updates regarding running backs Zach Charbonnet and TJ Harden. Charbonnet, who appeared slightly hobbled after Saturday’s game, and Harden, who didn’t dress for the game, both took part in the practice game open to reporters.
Kelly said reserve offensive tackle Siale Taupaki, who didn’t appear to be in Saturday’s game, was “unavailable.”