U.C.L.A.’s Football Wins Can’t Mask Its Financial Woes

The Bruins are having their best recent season on the field, yet attendance is falling rapidly. Free tickets haven’t helped, and the athletic department’s balance sheet has suffered.

David Brownfield, who grew up a few bends in Sunset Boulevard from Westwood Village, could sing the U.C.L.A. fight song before he could shave. 

He graduated from U.C.L.A. in 1985 and has had football season tickets with friends ever since — even grudgingly paying what he calls the annual “extortion fee,” the $800 donation that was required for the privilege of buying his season tickets this year.

As a 60th birthday present to themselves, Brownfield and several pals traveled to Eugene, Ore., last month for the Bruins’ showdown with Oregon for first place in the Pac-12 Conference.

Even though the Ducks stomped U.C.L.A., Brownfield was gobsmacked by what he saw — the kinetic capacity crowd,

which roared at each touchdown and during the ritualistic playing of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers at the start of the fourth quarter; 

the gleaming football facilities within walking distance of campus; the sense of community that enveloped the town on game day.

This, he thought, was a college football postcard come to life.

“It was an awesome experience,” Brownfield said. “But I walked away even more depressed because of what it’s like at our games.”