Was OSU's spring crowd awesome or overkill?

April, 29, 2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Consider it the unofficial start to the pregame buildup for Ohio State-USC, but the Los Angeles Times' Chris Dufresne ruffled some feathers in the heartland with his column about the record crowd for Ohio State's spring game and how it would never happen in L.A.

Ohio State drew 95,722 to Saturday's spring game at Ohio Stadium, eclipsing the previous record of 92,138 set by Alabama two years earlier. Fans paid $5 per ticket to get a glimpse of sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor and a host of new projected starters at wide receiver, running back and linebacker.

USC drew 22,565 to Saturday's spring game, while UCLA scrimmaged at a mostly empty Rose Bowl.

Trojans quarterback Aaron Corp weighed in on the crowd differential between Ohio State and the L.A. schools.

Corp broke out in a broad smile when informed Ohio State fans crushed USC fans in spring-game attendance.

"Ohio State doesn't have a beach!" he said. "I don't blame our fans. It gets loud in here in the fall."

Last season, before a crowd of 93,607 at the Coliseum, USC crushed Ohio State right where it counted: 35-3.

Spring football is different here, and not necessarily worse.

In the South they say there are two sports: football and spring football.

In Los Angeles, we say there's football and a thing called a life. So, in relatively obscurity, our two teams tinkered in their workshops.

That last line is the one that has Buckeye blood boiling right now. But Ohio State fans shouldn't feel bad about supporting their team, even for a souped-up scrimmage.

I was surprised so many people showed up at Ohio Stadium for the spring game, but not totally shocked.

Big stadiums and rabid fan support is a reason why the Big Ten will always be relevant, even when the teams are struggling like they are right now. The passion of Big Ten fans contributes to the league having unmatched TV exposure, its own TV network, more BCS bowl appearances (19) than any other league and much better bowl agreements than most conferences, particularly the Pac-10, which usually has only one team playing in January.

Why do you think the Big Ten sends two teams to BCS bowls every year? It's not always because the teams deserve to go. It's because fans will always show up in droves.

The Pac-10, meanwhile, has a reputation for not traveling well to bowl games, which contributes to its pathetic postseason lineup, the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner writes in his blog. It's not a stretch to suggest there's a connection between the smaller spring-game turnouts in Los Angeles and the willingness of fans to travel to support their team when it matters.

Dufresne is right. There's more to life in L.A. than college football.

The Lakers are in the playoffs and the Dodgers and Angels are in full swing (or miss). The beach always beckons, and you can surf year-round or catch movie premieres in Hollywood. And really, who doesn't love a good traffic jam on the 405 or the 110? Don't get me wrong, L.A. fans love their sports, but they're also known for showing up late and leaving early.

To be completely honest, if I had a choice, I probably wouldn't spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching a spring game.

But I grew up in California.



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