“It’s the greatest venue for a big game for football anywhere in the country,” Aikman said in a phone interview. “I wouldn’t trade my days there for anything. It’s just a hard place to fill.”
Attendance, and its impact on U.C.L.A.’s bottom line, is apparently a touchy subject in the athletic department. Martin Jarmond, the athletic director, has declined three interview requests from The New York Times in the last 15 months. In July, Jarmond declined an interview request to discuss the move to the Big Ten because an athletic department spokesman, Scott Markley, said he had already addressed the matter.
Jarmond, who makes $1.4 million per year, declined an interview request last week about football attendance because he was “not interested in rehashing old news,” Markley said in a email, adding, “perhaps we can make something happen later this winter.”
Markley also declined to make available athletic department marketing and ticketing officials for an interview.
Jarmond, who was hired as U.C.L.A.’s athletic director in May 2020, has been unable to reverse the slide he inherited from Dan Guerrero, who retired after 18 years running an athletic department that had balanced its books for 14 consecutive years until 2019.
Guerrero, though, had never been able to find a football coach who could make U.C.L.A. a consistent winner. For his final search, he enlisted Aikman as an adviser.
“We’ve had challenges over the years in getting candidates interested in the job,” Aikman said, ticking off reasons like high academic standards that hinder recruiting, salaries that did not account for the high cost of living, lack of an on-campus stadium and the bureaucracy of the sprawling University of California system. “Chip is the only one I can think of who has had other opportunities.”