Surrounding the tall walls of California Memorial Stadium stands an army — a metaphorical, online army of dedicated Twitter fans. Fans, mostly anonymous “burner” accounts, have taken it upon themselves to invigorate an arguably subdued Cal football fanbase during a critical offseason through memes, hashtags and trends.
One especially popular trend has been the hashtag “Hogs4Spav:” the notion that the team needs more “hogs” — offensive linemen — for “Spav” — Cal’s newly appointed offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
“It took off more than I think any of us thought it would. It’s hilarious to see the memes we make being recirculated when we get an O-lineman commit,” said Tony Kransinski, one of the accounts behind the trend, in an email. “The best part about #Hogs4Spav is that it gives us something to root for in the offseason.”
Kransinski, or @wetbeefs on Twitter, is a self-proclaimed “Cal football insider” and uses the alias for fear of retaliation.
One Tweet under #Hogs4Spav includes Spavital’s face over Batman, with the bat signal showing an image of a “hog” wearing an edited Cal hat. Another has Cal football’s director of recruiting Benji Palu’s face edited over an image of a boar — what Palu thought was “the funniest thing ever.”
Those working for Cal Athletics have all but shied away from the trends. Palu and Marshall Cherrington, Cal’s director of player personnel, play into the jokes and have been active on Twitter, engaging with fans and even teasing about new “hogs.”
“They’re hilarious, honestly, the Twitter community,” Cherrington said. “You have all these different accounts that you grow familiar with and just the different things they put out. And I think they’re pretty creative and clever with it. … It’s awesome.”
Palu said that, at times, the two have even suspected that some of the content might be coming from their own offices, although the whiteboard chart they drew is yet to narrow down a culprit.
Even Spavital himself, the star of the “Hogs4Spav” memes, has gotten on board with the trend.
“You know, we’ve actually kind of grabbed this whole concept and kind of ran with it,” Spavital said. “Hopefully, we just keep getting some more hogs coming to Cal.”
The recognition of and engagement in these trends from those up in Cal Athletics offices has further energized the fanbase, making fans feel seen and even involved in the process.
“Marshall (Cherrington) & Benji (Palu) engaging with the fans is super important,” Kransinski said in an email. “Their engagement has created a very fun buzz knowing our stupid jokes on twitter are being seen by the guys who are making things actually happen. They make us feel a part of the team by being active online and partaking in the fun.”
But, while the online community has helped energize the Cal fandom, it’s actually had an even greater effect: helping with recruiting. Prospective recruits are drawn to teams where they feel they would be welcomed by the fanbase, and “hogs” might be especially feeling the love.
Kransinski credits these newfound successes to the recruiters being involved and engaged with the online fans — recruits are active online, he said, which helps expose them to the “positive fandom and the community” they will be a part of on campus.
Strategy-wise, Cherrington said, the online trends and interaction between fans and recruiters allow recruits to see that there is momentum and excitement surrounding the team. Spavital agrees that the network, especially with the “Hogs4Spav” trend, helps engagement with potential commits.
“There’s a pretty good outreach of people, shooting them mentions or tagging them … just to get them engaged, that we want (them) to be a part of what we’re trying to build here,” Spavital said. “It’s galvanized a community. … If you hear (of) any offensive lineman out there, let’s all help and go Tweet at them and try to get them engaged and excited about Cal football.”
Correlation is not causation, but the social media outreach does seem to have been paying off. The offseason has already seen major additions to the program, including Texas A&M transfer and 2022 SEC All-Freshman offensive lineman Matthew Wykoff, a true “hog.”
The current state of the Twitter fanbase is a relatively new development, one that has really taken off in the past year. It has existed for years, but recent additions to the community have allowed Cal Twitter to take off.
“The current form of Cal Twitter feels like an evolution of what was happening in previous years. There’s a lot of younger fans (recent grads & students) in the community who are putting a new spin on the online community,” Kransinsky said in an email. “The younger demographic of Cal Fans joining together has been really important for the energy we’re seeing online.”
The Cal football program is without a doubt at a crossroads; the team has not had a winning season since 2019 and is facing a heightened amount of pressure following the departure of several key contributors, as well as a former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Making waves in the portal and with some vetted, brand-new coaches on staff, the team has been recognized by several outlets, including the Athletic and On3, for a successful offseason in the portal.
But win or lose, rain or shine, this group of Cal fans will, reliably, always be on Twitter to hype up any “hogs” and get fans excited about seasons to come.
And Spavital, a man who has become somewhat of a lynchpin of the Twitter community, has a message for the fans:
“Keep staying consistent and keep showing your passion, your love for this university, because great programs, great universities are not about one person. It’s about everybody,” Spavital said. “Stay persistent.”