Fans: 'Granddaddy of 'Em All' losing some luster
Posted: Wednesday December 30, 1998 06:46 PM
PASADENA, California (AP) -- The Rose Bowl, "The Granddaddy of 'Em All," playing second fiddle to the Fiesta Bowl? If Tournament of Roses Association officials won't say it, longtime UCLA fan Ray Rodriguez will.
"It's still the granddaddy of 'em all, but it would've been nice to see the [UCLA] Bruins play for it all," he said.
Just as well, added his 15-year-old son Rick, "because we probably would've lost to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl anyway."
Though the Rose Bowl has been the glittering brass ring of college football for nearly a century, it's been somewhat of a downer for both sixth-ranked UCLA and No. 9 University of Wisconsin -- a consolation prize to Bruin fans after they were knocked out of the national championship picture.
It's also been a reminder to Wisconsin Badgers fans of a tour scam five years ago that left hundreds without tickets for the game, although some may say the real scam is this year's record $110 face value of a ticket.
Is the bloom off the Rose Bowl? Not so, according to tournament officials who insist the game is as glamorous as it was when coaches such as Woody Hayes stalked the sidelines and players like Sam "Bam" Cunningham dove for touchdowns.
"We have exactly what we always have had: the champs of the Big Ten and the Pac-10," said Bill Flinn, the tournament's chief operating officer.
Some UCLA fans apparently don't think so, abandoning the bandwagon in droves after the Bruins' season-ending 49-45 loss to Miami knocked them out of the Fiesta Bowl and a chance to play for the national title. The university returned about 6,300 unsold tickets to the tournament a week before the game.
Some ticket brokers have been offering only $30 a ticket to would-be sellers, $80 below the face value.
"If they could get the prices down the way they used to be, then I'd reconsider," said Rodriguez, who planned to watch the game on TV at home in La Verne with friends rather than buy a ticket. "I remember the first Rose Bowl I ever went to was $50."
Another UCLA fan, alumnus Ron Aguirre, couldn't dip into the university's Rose Bowl ticket allotment because he wasn't a season-ticket holder but "it took a little out of the game when you've been gearing up for the Fiesta Bowl all season long," Aguirre said.
Like Rodriguez, Aguirre planned to watch the game at home.
They won't miss much. The Rose Bowl is UCLA's home stadium and Bruins fans know what a logistical nightmare it can be. Traffic stretches for miles on one of the few roads that lead into the Rose Bowl parking lot, much of which is actually a local municipal golf course. The wait for a restroom stall is agonizingly long. Fans are packed buttock-to-buttock in the stadium's bleachers.
And the stadium's beer -- or a foamy, watery substance that passes as beer -- isn't sold after halftime.
"Parking's a problem, access is a hassle and it looks like it's going to be hotter than Hades," Rodriguez said, noting Pasadena's recent 80-degree temperatures and bright sun.
Meanwhile, the thousands of Wisconsin residents visiting southern California are keeping a watchful eye on their pocketbooks.
Hundreds of Badgers fans were left without tickets to the 1994 Rose Bowl, victims of alleged schemes that suckered them into buying travel packages that didn't provide tickets for the game. The fiasco led to a 1994 California law tightening regulation of brokers and providing tougher penalties for failing to deliver tickets.
This year they were careful. Dick Benzene and 11 others in his group bought their Rose Bowl tickets through the University of Wisconsin ticket office.
"People were very, very hesitant because of the scam," said Benzene, 55, of Madison.
Ticket agencies based in southern California advertised in Wisconsin newspapers, but "those things are nothing we could rely on," said Jo Ann Benisch, 45, of Sue Prairie, Wisconsin.
But Badgers fans have been undaunted by the higher face value of the tickets this year. "Last time we paid $200 to $400 for a ticket. Paying $110 this time wasn't a problem," Benzine said.
And though Bruins fans have been less than thrilled about the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin fans have snapped up approximately 31,000 tickets for the game. The streets of Pasadena's popular Old Town district have been overrun with people wearing Badgers red in recent days.
"I was here in 1994 when we surprised UCLA," Wisconsin fan Pete Van Horn said, "and we're going to do it again."
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