Fans unhappy with possible plans to move 2014 Big Game to Santa Clara

Randy Adan Romero/File

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Next year’s Big Game may be leaving the friendly confines of Strawberry Canyon.

Late Friday night, reports began to surface about a possible relocation of the 2014 Big Game, currently scheduled to be played in Memorial Stadium, to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Associate athletic director Herb Benenson released a statement Sunday morning confirming that the San Francisco 49ers proposed both rival schools with the possibility in playing in its new $1.2 billion stadium.

“The San Francisco 49ers, on behalf of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, have approached Cal and Stanford about hosting the 2014 Big Game at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for a one-year, neutral site event with the idea that the rivalry would resume in Berkeley in 2015,” Benenson said.

It wouldn’t be the first time that the Big Game was hosted on neutral grounds. From 1892 to 1904, the football game took place in San Francisco. With the exception of 1922, when Cal was building Memorial Stadium, the Big Game went back and forth between Berkeley and Stanford.

With the long, unperturbed tradition in jeopardy, the initial reaction among Cal fans and alums alike was generally negative.

“I really admire the job that (Athletic Director) Sandy Barbour has done,” UC Berkeley alumnus and Cal Athletics donor Ken Montgomery said. “But we just spent $350 million on a brand-new stadium. I think the idea is to play games there.”

Reactions from some student groups were more tempered.

“It’s an interesting proposition,” Rally Committee chair Ross Crockett said. “But we can’t have an opinion until more information comes out.”

Most alumni pointed to a possible increase in revenue for Cal Athletics as the main reason for the proposal. According to Jeff Warren, a UC Berkeley alumnus who wrote a blog post that initially shed light on the issue, Cal expects to make approximately an additional $100,000 from the rumored arrangement.

Other alumni see the potential move causing more harm than good financially. Berkeley businesses surrounding Memorial Stadium could lose tens of thousands of customers on Big Game day.

“It’s more than just an extra $100,000 in lost revenue,” said Cal alumnus Ron Tiongco. “Sometimes you have to make it bigger than athletics.”

Multiple alumni have launched online petitions opposing the shift. About 150 signatures have been collected between the petitions by Sunday night.

While many alumni were upset at the very idea of relocation, some were more disappointed at the lack of communication and transparency from Cal Athletics.

“I think it’s being communicated poorly,” Montgomery said. “Cal should be engaging their stakeholders in a transparent process.”

Despite the negativity, Montgomery said he is open to the move if Cal is willing to put in the extra effort to make the game accessible for their fans.

“If all of the students are sitting at the 50-yard line, if the university provides buses for the students, if the university does some sort of make-good for the fans — then I think it would be understandable,” Montgomery said.

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