A deep dive into UC Berkeley, Stanford rivalry

Illustration of football players

Take a quick look at this video before you read on.

Whether you’re a football fanatic or a football cynic, it’s impossible not to feel a little sense of pride in our UC Berkeley Bears while watching. Wondering what the Clog’s favorite part of the video is? Easy: the moment the red-suited trombonist hits the ground. 

But the truth is, having school spirit at UC Berkeley is difficult. We students have midterms to take, jobs to work, club meetings to attend and The Daily Californian articles to write — give us a break, we’re busy! And quite honestly, the majority of this campus probably can’t even name the UC Berkeley quarterback (but it’s a trick question, since this year there’s been too many to remember). 

But there is one thing ALL UC Berkeley students can name. It’s UC Berkeley’s forever rival and that school across the Bay: Stanford University. 

We don’t like Stanford. We don’t like the color red. Stanford is our enemy, foe and ex that won’t stop texting us. Stanford is the long line at Caffè Strada. Stanford is the 51B bus that doesn’t pull over, even though you’re clearly standing at the bus stop. Stanford is the third midterm in that class. You get it, we all do — We. Don’t. Like. Stanford. 

But where did this all begin? No, not the third midterm or the ruthless bus, but this rivalry? What’s the history behind this ingrained doctrine — something that every freshman accepts the moment they take their first step on UC Berkeley’s campus? Why do we rival Stanford?

The Clog decided to go directly to the most trusty source, that being … the internet. 

Now, finding clear information on the rivalry was surprisingly difficult, given that it dates all the way back to the 1890s. But one thing that is easy to track down is the history of the Axe

The story of the Axe

In 1899, Stanford sports weren’t doing so well; more specifically their teams weren’t doing so well against UC Berkeley. So in order to rally its fans, Stanford brought in a real lumberjack axe to boost the energy of the games. 

The Axe made its first debut at a UC Berkeley and Stanford baseball series. When the Stanford team would make a good play, the Stanford axe-bearer would parade the Axe in front of the UC Berkeley bleachers. Eventually, Bears fans had enough of this parade, and when the axe-bearer came around again, there was a brawl, and the Axe ended up in UC Berkeley fans’ possession.

What resulted was a long history of the Axe being stolen back and forth between both schools. This continued until the agreement was made that the victor of the Big Game every year would earn the possession of the Axe. But this rivalry goes beyond just an axe, seeping into UC Berkeley and Stanford’s student newspapers as well. 

The annual Ink Bowl

Every year on the day of the Big Game, the two newspapers compete in a flag football game called the Ink Bowl. Run by the sports departments, the Ink Bowl seems to gather just as much excitement as the Big Game itself. The Clog can report that this year The Daily Californian team is more ready than ever, looking to preserve its three-year title. 

A hoax Daily Cal newspaper

Honestly, the internet is a glorious place, and as we dove in further and further, we found endless information on this rivalry. But let’s return back to that video we asked you to watch in the beginning of this piece. The year The Play made the UC Berkeley football history books, the Stanford Daily printed a hoax Daily Cal newspaper, claiming that the NCAA had taken back the UC Berkeley win. 

A taller tower

And finally, maybe one of the Clog’s favorite stories of the rivalry is one that pertains to our beloved Campanile — that beautiful tower in the center of campus, the one whose bells sing to us at moments throughout the day, the one that stands so tall that on foggy evenings, you can’t see her sparkly top. Apparently, when Stanford was building Hoover Tower, it asked UC Berkeley for the measurements of the Campanile. In return, UC Berkeley gave Stanford fake measurements in order to ensure that the Campanile would always remain the tallest.  

As we said, the list goes on. With almost 130 years of rivalry between UC Berkeley and Stanford, every single instance of this long rivalry is impossible to tell. But at the end of the day, remember that all of it doesn’t matter so much, since there will always be something that unites all UC Berkeley students and alumni. And we think you know exactly what that is. 

Can we get a “Go Bears”?

Emily Denny is the blog editor. Contact Emily Denny at [email protected].