PASADENA, Calif. - The Georgia Bulldogs will set foot on a historic field on New Year's Day. Before the Bulldogs compete in their second Rose Bowl, you get a chance to take a backstage tour of the famous football venue.
It starts out front, underneath the iconic neon sign, with the "Court of Champions." The tiles list each game, the score, the head coaches and the most valuable players.
"Now your guys are interested in '43, of course," said tour guide Joe Caskey, referring to UGA's lone appearance in the Rose Bowl before this year's game.
Caskey noted that year's game is notable because of the event's of the previous year.
"It was time for the 1942 Rose Bowl, it had only been five weeks since the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor," said Caskey. That year's game was moved to Durham, North Carolina; the only Rose Bowl played outside Pasadena (Duke took on Oregon State).
The next year, Georgia beat UCLA in Pasadena, but it wasn't a normal affair.
"They canceled the Rose Parade, not only in 1942, but in 1943, [because] they couldn't find enough male tuba players, they were all off fighting the war," said Caskey. "The city of Pasadena isn't going to do things halfway."
The parade is back on this go round.
The tour continued on the field itself, where Caskey noted the grass is grown each year in Palm Springs and installed after UCLA's regular season (the Bruins play home games at the Rose Bowl).
Looking up, you only see one number hanging from the top portion of the stadium: 42.
"Jackie Robinson," said Caskey of the former baseball player who was born in Cairo, Georgia before moving to Pasadena when he was young. Robinson went on to play football for Pasadena Junior College and UCLA.
Finally, the tour heads to the locker rooms, Georgia getting dressed where the visiting teams normally do during the regular season. The locker rooms were designed to be virtually identical. Around the tops of the walls, there are pictures from the stadium's past, including football games, concerts, Olympics and more.
"We recognize at the Rose Bowl that these players are probably only going to get one chance to play here in this iconic stadium. We want to make a very memorable experience," said Caskey.
The Rose Bowl offers tours throughout the year. For Bulldogs fans already in California, Thursday is the final day before the big game to check out the stadium, with tours at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tours resume on January 2 and 3 at the same times.