UCLA football continues missing out on mascots, fans at games amid uncertain season
Chase Cota (right) grew up in Medford, Oregon, attending the Ducks’ games. Now the junior wide receiver will look to find success against Oregon as UCLA football challenges the Pac-12 North leaders this weekend in Eugene. (Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Sam Connon
Nov. 18, 2020 7:54 p.m.
A global pandemic, volatile schedule and countless other factors have made the 2020 college football season different than any before.
For coach Chip Kelly, the lack of mascots has been one of the standout changes, and it will continue into UCLA football’s (1-1) next game at No. 11 Oregon (2-0) on Saturday.
“I don’t even think we’re going to have the duck, and that’s always depressing because he’s always fun to see,” Kelly said Wednesday morning. “We felt the same thing at Colorado – we didn’t get Ralphie, so it’s just a different year, so I think it’s just a different kind of vibe, unfortunately.”
The lack of costumed mallards and domesticated bison haven’t been the only things missing from stadiums so far. The Pac-12 agreed on no fans for any team when it announced its return to play in September, regardless of state and local health regulations.
There have been limited friends and family allowed at certain games, including the Bruins’ season opener against the Buffaloes, but that isn’t the case at the Rose Bowl or Autzen Stadium. Instead, there will be cutouts of fans, alumni and dogs in Eugene, something junior wide receiver Chase Cota said is going to be very unnerving.
“It’ll be different for sure,” Cota said. “Growing up, going to games (at Autzen), I was used to it being real loud there. And freshman year, we got to go there, and it was really loud. But our first two games, they had over the intercom the fake crowd white noise going. Hopefully, we’ll get that again.”
A no-fan environment isn’t the only difference UCLA has faced this season. Its Saturday game versus Utah was canceled Friday morning, and its Sunday morning matchup with California was locked in only a few hours later.
Only having 43 hours to prepare for a regular season game is far from the norm, but the Bruins came out on top.
When asked if he thinks the win over the Golden Bears deserves an asterisk, Cota said he disagrees.
“Both teams had 40 hours to prepare and then we just have to strap it up,” Cota said. “Regardless, a win’s a win and that’s what we wanted going into the week.”
The win certainly counts in the standings, as the Bruins now sit at .500 for the first time under Kelly. UCLA is now only one game back of USC and Colorado for the lead in the Pac-12 South with four games left on the regular-season slate.
If more cancellations are down the pipe, the Pac-12 athletic directors announced Wednesday they have agreed to allow teams to schedule nonconference games to replace any potential called-off conference games. Scheduling games midseason is different than scheduling them less than two days in advance, but should the conference CEOs group sign off on the proposal, it still could throw a wrench into an already unorthodox season.
Kelly said health and safety are more important than Pac-12-prioritized scheduling, and he would welcome new opponents should they be required to complete the season.
“If they had the same testing protocols, then I would be for that,” Kelly said. “As long as it’s a safe environment, that’s what the overriding factor should be.”
Even if UCLA can manage to shuffle around its schedule and play the full seven-game season, chances are it won’t be sharing the field with any buffaloes or dancing ducks anytime soon.