Football in Orange County, A Pipe Dream Not Worth Giving Up

Last weekend, I sat down on the couch at home, and as I flipped through the channels on the television, I came across ESPN. “College Gameday” was on. Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Lou Holtz ranted and raved about the weekend’s NCAA football matchups while stationed in a college town, surrounded by a rowdy crowd of spirited students. I watched enviously, wishing Orange County had its own version of football tailgating, sunburned diehard fanatics, marching band halftime performances, quarterbacks, linemen and wide receivers.

As the ticker on the bottom line briefly informed me of the scores throughout college football, I began to realize how deprived the Southern California area is when it comes to the sport.

Due to several infractions throughout the Pete Carroll era, the USC Trojans were forced to forfeit their chance at competing in this year and the following year’s bowl season.

UCLA played horrendously in their first two matchups, dropping contests 31-22 at Kansas State and then 35-0 at home to Stanford in respective weekends. Yes, I understand that the Bruins shocked the nation by defeating No. 7 Texas this past weekend. From time to time they show signs of life, as evidenced by big victories over USC in years past. However, despite showing significant improvements in big matchups against Houston and Texas, the Bruins remain a bipolar team that hasn’t won the Pac-10 since 1998 and who has a meager record of 48-43 (just a .522 win percentage) since 2003.

And San Diego State may win their fair share of games, but the only formidable opponent on their schedule is Texas Christian University.
As an avid college football fan, I love to watch the Trojans and Bruins when they’re at their best, but it sure would be nice to have a team in Orange County. Call me spoiled, but it would be extremely convenient to be able to drive ten minutes to see college football, than spending a few hours in stop and go traffic in Los Angeles or San Diego.

Throughout the past few years there has been speculation as to whether the National Football League would bring a team to a monumental market in Los Angeles or Orange County; however, not as much attention has been paid to college football.

Southern California has seen college baseball, volleyball, basketball and water polo flourish. Consider baseball: schools such as Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach St., UCLA, USC, USD and UC Irvine are annually among the finest programs in the nation, and all are from San Diego, Orange or Los Angeles County. In volleyball, the Anteaters have won two of the last four national championships, and a majority of the prolific program’s losses have come to highly ranked schools in the Southern California area, including Pepperdine, USC, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State and UCLA.

California is the place to be for sports. That’s why we have five MLB teams, three NFL teams, four NBA teams and even three hockey teams (a sport primarily played in Canada, the Midwest and on the East coast). With beautiful weather suitable for year-round practice, it’s unfortunate that more college football programs couldn’t emerge on the golden coast.
Bringing college football to a campus is a significant financial investment, and competing on a national scale is even tougher. Hence, it’s understandable for UC Irvine and surrounding Orange County schools to not step forward in an attempt to adopt a sport that requires a stadium and appropriate parking accommodations.

It’d be nice to see another football team come to Southern California. This goal may not be realistic for UCI at this point, but perhaps one day. UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UCLA each have their own installment of NCAA football, while Irvine and some of its fellow football-less UC schools still sarcastically sell shirts for their non-existent football programs that read, “Still Undefeated.” A 0-0 record may be undefeated, but I’d personally rather see an Anteater football team finish the season 0-10 than not see a team play at all.

There’s a cynical saying that goes, “that’ll happen when pigs fly.” Hopefully there’s progress towards bringing a football team to UCI someday in the future, if the California budget crisis ever subsides. If not, the saying might as well be “Yeah, that’ll happen when pigskins fly in Irvine.” I hope this is never the case. Maybe someday football enthusiasts at UC Irvine, instead of sitting in their hometowns on a Saturday morning watching ESPN “College Gameday,” will be able to take a short drive down to a football stadium in Orange County in order to see some ’Eaters throw the pigskin. It’s a pipedream, but it’s worth not giving up on.