103,303 Spectators Sets New West Coast Attendance Record – Remains All-Time Mark For UCLA vs USC

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“TITLE GRID TILT TO BE SELL OUT”

Los Angeles, December 6th (Associated Press) — One of those very sad experiences in the life of a college graduate manager is about to happen here. Memorial Coliseum, which only seats 103,303, apparently isn’t going to be large enough to hold all of the people who want to see the grid battle between SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA and the UNIVERSITY of CALIFORNIA at LOS ANGELES. If things pan out as most probably they will, graduate manager Bill Ackerman will be able to stand around the big stadium around 2 o’clock game day and watch a lot of people wander off the grounds with unspent money in their pockets.

But so it goes and now more people will turn out to see the mighty Trojans and the Bruins of U.C.L.A. fight for the honor of playing in the Rose Bowl (on) January 1 than will see the winner in the (1940) Rose Bowl Game itself. The Pasadena bowl, you see, seats only about 95,000. Last year U.S.C. and Notre Dame drew a capacity crowd of about 101,000 in the Coliseum, but the stadium has been fitted up with a couple thousand more seats since then.

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“SELLOUT ASSURED FOR TOMORROW”

(Southern California Daily Trojan, December 8th, 1939)

With all rooters tickets gone and but 300 to 350 reserved seats left, a complete sellout is virtually assured for tomorrow’s “biggest game” in the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum. SC received its last batch of tickets yesterday from UCLA and the rapid rate that these are being sold indicates that there will be no sale at all by game time tomorrow. UCLA and Bullocks have a limited supply of tickets but these are not expected to hold out until tomorrow.

Last year’s SC – Notre Dame game holds the present record for attendance in the Coliseum, approximately 101,000 persons attending that contest, however, tomorrow will see the bowl packed to its capacity of 103,303.

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(United Press photo — Berkeley Daily Gazette, December 11, 1939) …………… UCLA fullback BILL OVERLIN (center of photo) flies over the USC defensive line and picks up a few yards in the first quarter of the de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game between the # 3 ranked Trojans and # 9 ranked Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9, 1939; watching the action unfold to the right in the photo is UCLA right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON, the Bruins’ “Man-In-Motion” who had continued his route around the left end of the line of scrimmage after pretending to take a handoff in the backfield on a standard reverse play.
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There is some discrepancy nowadays between what was widely reported nationwide in the all contemporary newspapers at the time and what the USC Trojans’ official media guide circa 2014 has to say concerning the Southern Cal vs Notre Dame football game that was played on December 3rd, 1938. This because the Trojans’ official media guide lists the attendance figure for the USC vs Notre Dame contest from that year at 97,146. But, rather conspicuously enough, the contemporary newspapers in the late 1930s all reported the attendance figure to be in excess of six figures.

One of those contemporary sources is none other than USC’s very own school newspaper, “The Southern California Daily Trojan”.

Nevertheless, there was never any question whatsoever that the colossal UCLA BRUINS vs USC TROJANS gridiron contest on the second Saturday of December in 1939 was going to break the existing record for largest number of people at that point in history to have witnessed a football game of any level played on the western Pacific Coast. The cross-town rivalry certainly had come a long way at the box office (not to mention on the field) since the soon-to-be legendary series was first initiated a little more than a decade earlier. This even if the attendance totals had been somewhat in decline the past few seasons but, of course, both UCLA (6-0-3) and USC (7-0-1) were now nationally ranked as well as unbeaten .

Attendance : UCLA vs USC at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
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September 28, 1929 ………………………………………. 50,000
September 27, 1930 ………………………………………. 40,000
November 26, 1936 … (Thanksgiving Day) …….. 90,000
December 4, 1937 …………………………………………. 75,000
November 24, 1938 … (Thanksgiving Day) …….. 65,000
December 9, 1939 ………………………………………… 103,303

* Notes — From 1936 thru 1941, in the years that USC were the “home” team for the annual intra-city clash with the UCLA (i.e., 1936, 1938 & 1940), the Trojans hosted the inter-regional rival Notre Dame Fighting Irish in their final regular season game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. When the Bruins were the home team during that same period, then USC would play Notre Dame before lining up against their intra-city adversaries. After the Second World War up until 1961, the Trojans always made it a point to schedule the UCLA game before their annual contest with the Fighting Irish; thereafter, until 2004, USC would continue to play all its home games against Notre Dame at the Coliseum only after taking on the Bruins first.

ucla-washington-13-run-39unknownIn no small part thanks to the star power of UCLA All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) and a productive offensive attack that ranked just outside the Top Ten nationally at 281.0 yards per game, the undefeated Bruins topped the entire country after having reportedly drawn a combined total of well over four hundred thousand spectators to eight home football games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during the 1939 NCAA campaign. There was no doubt that UCLA rookie head coach BABE HORRELL had inherited a very favorable schedule but it was also true that the players still needed to take advantage of that home field advantage and perform well or the fan base simply would not turn out in large numbers. And so if only in this regard, all the national press coverage lauding the Bruins as the NCAA attendance champion for that season was well deserved for an up and coming football program that was, at the start of the 1930s, still only playing the less than daunting likes of Pomona-Pitzer, Cal Tech and Los Angeles Junior College.

UCLA BRUINS : Home Attendance
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1935 …… 237,000 total spectators …… 7 games ……. 33,857 avg
1936 …… 179,000 total spectators …… 5 games ……. 35,800 avg
1937 …… 248,000 total spectators …… 6 games ……. 41,333 avg
1938 …… 207,000 total spectators …… 6 games ……. 34,500 avg
1939 …… 415,000 total spectators …… 8 games ……. 51,875 avg

The UCLA Bruins had a banner year at the gate in 1939, easily the very best in the Westwood’s school history — aside from the landmark (and lucrative) contest against the USC Trojans, the Bruins also had four other games (versus the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, California Golden Bears, Santa Clara Broncos, and Washington State Cougars) that drew strong crowds of 50,000 spectators or more.

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