5 things you should know about the UC Berkeley-Stanford rivalry

The Campanile is lit up blue with Game of Thrones house symbols on the side. Sather Gate is adorned with fairy lights. The local Yik Yak scene is smattered with a healthy dose of the “turned on my laptop, got a computer science degree from Stanford” type of posts. If you can’t tell that it is Big Game Week, you probably do not go to this campus. You know that “The Farm” would be a miserable place to get an education, that a tree is a horrible mascot and that red is the worst color, but how much do you really know about the rivalry? Lucky for you, we came to give you the Big Game education you need. We did some research and talked to some students well versed in UC Berkeley history and came up with some of our favorite tidbits of knowledge about the rivalry.

1. The battle for Stanford Axe began with baseball and a wild goose chase around San Francisco.

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Believe it or not, the origin of Big Game was a baseball rivalry between the universities. Stanford University created the Axe in 1899 in an attempt to rally the school for the three-game series. Elated at their upset win, UC Berkeley students stole the Axe. According to a well-versed UC Berkeley alumnus, after a frenzied, back-and-forth chase through San Francisco, the Stanford Axe ended up safely in Berkeley, where it remained for 30 years before Stanford finally stole it back in 1930. After more attempted raids and strikes, the student body presidents of the two universities signed an agreement in 1933 deciding that the Axe would act as an annual trophy for the winner of the Big Game. UC Berkeley senior and UC Rally Committee chair Derek Schatz calls the theft his favorite piece of UC Berkeley-Stanford history. “It encapsulates the passion and excitement of the rivalry so well,” he told the Clog.

2. Sather Tower > Hoover Tower.  Enough said.

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Look at that thing. It’s just … no. We at the Clog definitely prefer our lovely Campanile to Stanfurd’s short, extraordinarily phallic excuse for a tower. Legend has it that when constructing Hoover Tower, Stanford asked UC Berkeley how tall the Campanile was. We gave them an incorrectly short measurement — the result being that Hoover Tower would remain smaller than the Campanile. UC Berkeley senior Spencer Bowen, who serves as one of the UC Berkeley mic men, told us about an infamous Hoover Tower prank that “SF Gate” dates back to 1960. According to Bowen, “Cal students once painted bear tracks going up Hoover Tower.”  Some reports say the next move was by the Stanford president and others by the police. Regardless, Stanford officials immediately called for them to come down. So, of course, as Bowen told us, “The next day there were matching tracks coming down the side of the tower.”

3. When it comes to pranks, Hoover Tower is only the beginning.

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Junior Alex Smith, one of the facilitators for the Cal Spirit and Traditions DeCal, shared her favorite Stanfurd prank with us. “In 1997,” Smith said, “a California engineering student attended every single Stanford home football game.” The reasoning for this might be strange, but it turns out it was all part of the student’s master plan to hack the Stanford Stadium sound system that the referees used. Smith told the Clog, “At their last home football game of the year, Stanford received a penalty and the referee got on the sound system to give the explanation as to why. This Cal fan, as the referee began speaking and gesturing, said over the sound system, ‘Penalty, excessive arrogance; Stanford sucks!’ ” We definitely agree with Smith on how awesome this prank is. As she explained, “The genius it takes to hatch a plan like that and then carefully follow it through to execute it — only at Cal!”

4. The bonfire is more badass than you think.

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It’s already pretty badass. Look at that thing. But according to Schatz, the tradition has been around longer than you realize. “It’s the oldest traditional event on this campus besides graduation,” he said. As a result, it “holds lots of significance for students and alums.” We can date the bonfire back until at least 1892, which was 24 years after the founding of the university and the same year the first Big Game was played. This means the bonfire has been around since even before the introduction of the Stanford Axe. How is that for historic?

5. No matter what happens, we’ll always have The Play.

If you’ve never heard of The Play — the infamous winning moment of the 1982 Big Game — you might risk getting your Cal-1 Card revoked or something. Stanfurd students can forever try to deny that it happened and was a legal play, but that’s an incredible waste of time and energy. We conquered both the Stanford football team and the Stanford band, coming from behind to beat the Cardinal 25-20. Arguably the most iconic moment in the athletic history of the rivalry, The Play captures the “anything-can-happen” attitude that is why, even through the tough seasons, we will never ever stop rooting for the blue and gold.

Image Sources: Michael Moore, HairOfTheBear, Adam Fagen, John Martinez Pavliga, Kai Schreiber under Creative Commons

Contact Kelsi Krandel at [email protected].