February 24, 2024

Reynolds Crutchfield figures he knows the best way to celebrate New Year’s Day: Sitting in the Rose Bowl and watching the Granddaddy of Them All.

Then again, the 93-year-old Crutchfield doesn’t recall celebrating any other way.

When Michigan squares off against Alabama on Monday, it will mark the 80th consecutive Rose Bowl game that Crutchfield has attended. Stadium officials believe that’s a record.

A retired high school teacher and basketball coach who grew up in Pasadena, Crutchfield attended his first game in 1945 when USC shut out Tennessee 25-0.

“I don’t remember a lot of the details as to how I got there, all I know is I got to invite one of my friends from junior high to go to the game with me,” said Crutchfield, who turns 94 on Friday. “We sat up in the northeast corner, and at some point during the game I said, ‘I’m going to go to 50 of these in a row.’ Why I said that, I don’t know.”

He hasn’t missed one since.

That includes scrambling for tickets in some of those years, and even attending the transplanted Rose Bowl in 2021, moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has sat in different spots in the stadium through the decades but in recent years, thanks in part of various friends, he has gotten prime seats on the 50-yard line.

The most memorable Rose Bowl game for him? The Texas-USC classic in 2006 — the last game called by legendary announcer Keith Jackson.

Crutchfield loves the nostalgic feel of the game and has meticulously saved his ticket stubs over the years, including a press pass from the year he got to shoot the game as a local sports photographer. He’s not a big fan of the e-tickets used now because you can’t put those in a scrapbook.

“I used to go to the parade, but not in the last two years because I have a little bit of trouble walking a long ways,” he said. “My balance isn’t as good as it used to be.”

For the last quarter-century, he’s attended the games with friends from New Mexico, a couple who have been to 40 in a row.

Rookies.

Green Acres

A view of the Rose Bowl during last year's game between Ohio State and Utah.

A view of the Rose Bowl during last year’s game between Ohio State and Utah.

(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

High praise for Miguel Yepez?

Tell him his masterpiece looks fake.

Yepez is the Rose Bowl’s field superintendent, so he’s responsible for that magnificent green playing surface that’s so unblemished it has some fans and players rubbing their eyes and wondering if it’s artificial turf.

“That’s one of our goals,” he said. “When people come in and are thinking it’s synthetic turf, that it looks like carpet, that’s great. But for me the best thing is when players are coming off the field and they say it played well. It’s playability, and then we go for looks.”

For years, Yepez was an assistant to longtime Rose Bowl superintendent Will Schnell. Yepez took over in 2020 when Schnell retired.

This year, for the first time anyone at the stadium can remember, the field didn’t have to be replaced for the Rose Bowl game. It was re-sodded in the middle of the UCLA season and the Bruins played only four games on the fresh turf.

“We had five weeks between the last UCLA game and the Rose Bowl game, so that gave us the time we needed to bring it back,” Yepez said.

The grass is grown in Palm Desert and the sod is transported to Pasadena. Yepez has experimented with different varieties over the year. The current blend is Bermuda Tahoma, overseeded with Ryegrass.

Yepez is a perfectionist, and he re-watches games not looking at the players but at how the field is performing.

“Are players slipping?” he said. “How are the linemen holding up? What kind of cuts are guys making? You want the field to give here and there. If a player’s foot gets stuck, you want the grass to be able to give out.”

Despite the rain, Yepez and his crew were able to paint the field on schedule, then tarp it to keep it dry. The south end zone, opposite the San Gabriel Mountains, is crimson with ALABAMA in white letters, and the north is blue with a maize MICHIGAN.

Take a bow

The Rose Bowl is great and all, but the real highlight for George Wiley comes when the clock hits 0:00.

That’s when the inventor and retired Pasadena police officer gets to lower the goal posts. He devised a mechanism to safely lower the goal posts in eight seconds, eliminating the hazard of fans storming the field and tearing them down.

The entire goal post assembly weighs just less than 1,000 pounds and has a hinge below where the single post meets the crossbar. After a knob is twisted and a pin is pulled, the uprights slowly drop forward as if bowing toward midfield.

The system was put in place at the Rose Bowl in 2010, and later in more than two dozen other venues, including the homes of the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills.

Wiley, who lives in Monrovia, sold his patents in early 2021, officially marking his retirement.

But not retirement from his favorite job. He’ll be behind the south goal post — and a colleague behind the north — waiting for that clock to expire.

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