What the duck? Cal rubber ducks found in Stanford University fountain leading up to Big Game

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Underneath the “Beat Cal” sign hanging from a Stanford University building swim many rubber duckies silently quacking their support for UC Berkeley in the upcoming Big Game.

Several anonymous UC Berkeley seniors said in an email that they committed the prank on Stanford’s campus in light of the Big Game on Nov. 18. The students, who requested to be anonymous because they conducted the prank, wrote “Cal” on the ducks and placed them in a fountain near the Cecil H. Green Library.

The students said in their email that they used rubber ducks because they “couldn’t find squeaky rubber bears.”

“(We did the prank) to remind people of a rivalry dating back to the 1800’s,” the students wrote in the email. “(It’s) to keep alive this rivalry.”

Ben Gillman, chair of the Stanford Axe Committee, which is a student group that guards the Big Game Axe and is “a student group devoted to supporting Stanford’s excellent athletics program,” ducked The Daily Californian’s questions.

“I have no comment,” Gillman said in an email.

Big Game pranks have a long and rich history. The San Francisco Gate compiled a list in 2004 of some of the best pranks between the two schools. In 1930, 21 Stanford students dressed as UC Berkeley freshmen, reporters and photographers and used tear gas to steal the Axe.

The Axe, a manifestation of the rivalry between UC Berkeley and Stanford, was first stolen from Stanford in 1899 when UC Berkeley students smuggled it back to campus on a ferry. Now, the axe is a trophy awarded to the winner of the Big Game.

There are other pranks that contributed to the heated UC Berkeley and Stanford rivalry. In a prank dating back to 1960, UC Berkeley students painted blue footprints along Stanford’s Hoover Tower.

Following “The Play” in 1982, when the Stanford band prematurely rushed the field and the Cal football team still scored and won the Big Game, The Stanford Daily, Stanford’s student newspaper, printed thousands of fake copies of the Daily Cal with the headline “NCAA Awards Big Game to Stanford.”

The UC Berkeley students behind the duck prank said in their email that they conducted the prank to express school spirit.

“Go Bears beat the Cardinal,” the students said in their email.

Contact Rishabh Nijhawan at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @realRishNij.