UCLA football drew a record low for its first game of the 2022 football season. Sep 3, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; General view of spectator seating as the UCLA Bruins play against the Bowling Green Falcons during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA football program got its 2022 season going in a good way on Saturday. The Bruins trailed 10-7 after the first quarter but dominated from there, routing Bowling Green 45-17. The UCLA fans at the Rose Bowl were no doubt happy. Not only did they get to see their team win, but they got plenty of room to stretch out and practice social distancing.

Just over 27,000 fans were in attendance for UCLA’s season opener. And at one of the biggest stadiums in the world, 27,000 fans looks more like 270.

There are some circumstances here that must be acknowledged.

One, the entire state of California is in the midst of a gigantic heat wave. With the Rose Bowl offering little shade, the triple-digit heat is even worse.

Two, Bowling Green isn’t exactly a powerhouse opponent. They aren’t bringing scores of their own fans to Southern California to watch the game, nor are UCLA fans lining up to see them play.

That said, it’s not good. It’s hard to put a positive spin on drawing fewer than 30,000 fans to a stadium that can seat nearly 100,000, particularly in a gigantic metropolitan area. And with a move to the Big Ten forthcoming (or, at least likely forthcoming), many in the college football world couldn’t help but offer commentary on the empty seats.

It’s also worth mentioning that while the Bruins are a long way removed from their glory days on the gridiron, they’re coming off of a successful season. UCLA went 8-4 in 2021, qualifying for the Holiday Bowl (though that game was canceled). To get that record, the Bruins won their final three regular season games, including a 62-33 demolition of crosstown rival, USC. This isn’t some meaningless game at the end of a terrible season. It’s the first game of a season that, theoretically, should have fans excited.

The extenuating circumstances make lighter attendance expected. But given where the program is and where it’s soon headed, this is a bad look.

[Ben Bolch, Ed Espinoza]

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