The experience of the Rose Bowl Game is a memorable one that includes Southern California weather, the San Gabriel Mountains in the background, a battle between two of college football’s best teams and one voice to guide the 94,000-plus fans in attendance.
For a 20th consecutive year, Chuck White will be the memorable in-stadium voice for the event dubbed “The Granddaddy of Them All,” which will feature Pac-12 Conference champion Oregon taking on 11th-ranked Wisconsin of the Big Ten Conference on Jan. 1.
“I was born and raised in Southern California, and I’ve always been a huge fan of the Rose Bowl,” said White, who is also senior vice president of Beneficial State Bank. “College football is near and dear to my heart. If you don’t love it, I don’t think you can do this job. It has to be in your blood.”
College athletics has been White’s blood since he can remember. He remembers nearly every game, especially the ones he has called since starting out with the 2001 Rose Bowl Game.
He was a college athlete himself after graduating from Los Alamitos High School in 1976. White was offered scholarships to play golf for UCLA and USC. After his interview with the Bruins coach, he opted to attend UCLA.
“I was very fortunate,” White said. “I remember my golf coach interviewed me at Bel-Air Country Club. I remember sitting down, and I look to my right and George C. Scott was there. I looked to my left and there’s Sean Connery. I’m 17 years old and I said to myself, ‘I think I like this.’ In later years, I gave a golf lesson to Connery and Jerry West. I was able to see the people I was influenced by. This group of Hollywood [actors] and getting that immersion into that world was unique.”
White was a successful golfer at UCLA, breaking a scoring record set by Stanford’s Tom Watson, who went on to have an illustrious professional career.
However, he didn’t come from a wealthy family and began looking for job opportunities during his time at UCLA. Blessed with a memorable voice, White managed to pick up a few jobs doing voiceovers. He worked with Mazda and a local dentist.
“UCLA knew I was doing this,” he said. “So when they moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982, they asked me if I would like to do in-house public address.”
White, who graduated from UCLA in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in geography and economics, gladly accepted, and another door would open while he worked with UCLA football. The announcer who worked at Pauley Pavilion since its inception was retiring, and White was a candidate to become the new voice of the arena.
“Pauley Pavilion is obviously the mecca of Bruin basketball,” White said. “Some would argue one of the greatest venues in college basketball.”
He became the official P.A. voice of UCLA football and basketball, which helped him land the “great gift” of calling the Rose Bowl Game.
“I see it as the consummate Southern California experience,” White said. “It’s everything that’s good about Southern California and football. The weather, the venue, the wonderful San Gabriel Mountains in the background, and when the sun is setting, it’s beautiful. The sky turns red and purple, and you get to see a meaningful game at the same time. It doesn’t get any better. What better way is there to start the New Year than to experience this whole confluence of events, which includes the parade? It’s so cool.”
White’s first Rose Bowl was between Washington and Purdue in 2001, a game he remembers vividly.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “It was Rick Neuheisel versus Drew Brees and Purdue University. It was a bit frightening.”
White passed with flying colors and cemented himself as the official announcer at the Rose Bowl. His voice gained even more notoriety when he was hired by Electronic Arts to be the official stadium voice for its popular NCAA Football video game in 1998.
“That was so cool,” said White, who has also called four NCAA football championships. “It was such a good experience. That all came from the Rose Bowl.”
White is proud of all the work he has done, which includes acting as an FBI agent in the Oliver Stone film “World Trade Center,” but it is the big game on New Year’s Day that gets him grinning from ear to ear.
“I’m just so fortunate,” White said. “The excitement is still there. I’m telling you, on Jan. 1, the Ducks, a very good football team, and Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin will give us a show.”
The Long Beach native works hard to ensure he makes the right calls and pronounces every name correctly. The day before the game, White will go the stadium and do a full game run-through, from start to finish.
“It’s important because we have the television elements and flyovers,” he said. “Everything has to be synchronized perfectly. We only have one shot to do it. We go over the rosters substantially, work on the backups and the backup to the backup.”
That dedication and passion for the event is what has kept White in the booth the past 20 years. He wants to make sure everyone walks out with a pleasant, balanced experience that doesn’t draw attention to himself.
“Some P.A.’s like to get hysterical and get into it,” he said. “Not I. I like to stay down the middle. How do you talk to more than 80,000 people? It’s interesting. Do you talk to one person or all of them? I always looked at it as if I was talking to one person. I just want to be able to communicate with these people the facts and figures and be friendly and affable and have a good time with it. People are just there to have a good time. If my job is done right, people go, ‘Hey, that was a great game.’ It’s seamless.”
White will be at the stadium at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1, ready to take in his favorite time of the year.
“The whole pageantry, the whole picture is just beautiful,” White said. “Picture a packed stadium with 94,000 people. Wow. It’s just beautiful.”