Big Game (American football)

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Big Game
University of California, Berkeley athletic logo.svg Stanford plain block "S" logo.svg
California Golden Bears Stanford Cardinal

Sport(s) Football
Total meetings 116
Series record Stanford leads, 59–46–11 (.556)
At Berkeley: Stanford leads, 25–21–6
At Stanford: Stanford leads, 29–21–1
At San Francisco: Stanford leads, 5–4–4
Home vs. Visitor: 54–51–11
First meeting March 19, 1892 (1892-03-19); 122 years ago
Stanford 14, California 10
Last meeting November 23, 2013
Stanford 63, California 13
Next meeting November 22, 2014 in Berkeley
Largest win Stanford, 63–13 (2013)
Longest win streak Stanford: 7 (1995–2001)
California: 5 (1919–23, 2002–06)
Home team: 5 (1954–58, 1969–73)
Visiting team: 6 (1939–47)
Current win streak Stanford: 4 (2010–13)
Home: 1 (2013)
Trophy Stanford Axe
Big Game (American football) is located in California
Stanford University
Stanford University
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
Locations in California

The Big Game is an American college football rivalry game played by the California Golden Bears football team of the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford Cardinal football team of Stanford University. First played 122 years ago in 1892, it is the ninth most played college football rivalry game in the United States. Stanford leads the series record at 59–46–11 (wins–losses–ties). The game is typically played in late November or early December, and its location alternates between the two universities every year. In even-numbered years, the game is played at Berkeley, while in odd-numbered years it is played at Stanford. Stanford won the most recent Big Game at Stanford Stadium by a score of 63–13.

Series history[edit]

Big Game is the oldest college football rivalry in the West. The first game was played on San Francisco's Haight Street Grounds on March 19, 1892 with Stanford winning 14–10. Future U.S. President Herbert Hoover was the Stanford team manager for that game.

The term "Big Game" was first used in 1900, when it was played on Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco. During that game, a large group of men and boys, who were observing from the roof of the nearby S.F. and Pacific Glass Works, fell into the fiery interior of the building when the roof collapsed, resulting in 13 dead and 78 injured.[1][2][3][4][5] On December 4, 1900, the last victim of the disaster (Fred Lilly) died, bringing the death toll to 22; and, to this day, the "Thanksgiving Day Disaster" remains the deadliest accident to kill spectators at a U.S. sporting event.[6]

In 1906, citing concerns about the violence in football, both schools dropped football in favor of rugby, which was played for the Big Games of 1906–14.[7][8] The first incidence of card stunts was performed by Cal fans at the halftime of the 1910 Big Game.[9]

California resumed playing football in 1915, but Stanford's rugby teams continued until 1917. From 1915–1917, California's "Big Game" was their game against Washington, while Stanford played Santa Clara as their rugby "Big Game".[10] The 1918 game, in which Cal prevailed 67–0, is not considered an official game because Stanford's team was composed of volunteers from the Student Army Training Corps stationed at Stanford, some of whom were not Stanford students.[9] The game resumed as football in 1919, and has been played as such every year since, except from 1943 to 1945, when Stanford shut down its football program due to World War II. A handful of Stanford starters—including guards Jim Cox, Bill Hachten and Fred Boensch, running back George Quist and halfback Billy Agnew—shifted to Cal in order to continue playing.[11][12] Quist returned to Stanford, playing against Cal in the 1946 Big Game.

Scenes for the Harold Lloyd silent classic The Freshman were filmed at California Memorial Stadium during halftime of the 1924 Big Game.

Since 1933, the victor of the game has been awarded possession of the Stanford Axe. If a game ended in a tie, the Axe stayed on the side that already possessed it; this rule became obsolete in 1996 when the NCAA instituted overtime. The Axe is a key part of the rivalry's history, having been stolen on several occasions by both sides, starting in 1899, when the Axe was introduced when Stanford yell leader Billy Erb used it at a baseball game between the two schools.[13]

In March 2007, the National Football League announced that it intended to trademark the phrase "The Big Game" in reference to the Super Bowl,[14] but soon dropped the plan after being faced with opposition from Cal and Stanford.[15]

In 2013, the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara was proposed as the site of the 2014 Big Game, which according to the traditional rotation should be played at Cal's Memorial Stadium.[16] The 2015 game would then be held in Berkeley, reversing the current rotation of odd-numbered years at Stanford and even-numbered years at Cal.[17] But several days later Cal declined the offer.[18]

Since 2012, the Fox family of networks has held exclusive television rights to the game, as part of Fox's contract with the Pacific-12 Conference.

Notable games[edit]

A group of American football players, surrounded by photographers, lift a plaque upon which is an ax head and an inscription.
Stanford players lift the Stanford Axe after winning the 2010 Big Game

1924: Both teams came into the game unbeaten with a berth in the 1925 Rose Bowl on the line. With its star Ernie Nevers sidelined due to injuries, Stanford trailed 20–6 with under 5 minutes to go, but rallied to score twice to force a 20–20 tie and earn the Rose Bowl bid.[19]

1947: In the 50th Big Game, winless Stanford led the 8–1 Bears with less than three minutes left in the game, but Cal scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass to clinch a 21–18 victory.[20]

1959: Stanford quarterback Dick Norman threw for 401 yards (then an NCAA record, and still a Big Game record), but it was not enough to hold off the Bears, who won 20–17.[20]

1972: Cal drove 62 yards in the final 1:13, culminating in a Vince Ferragamo touchdown pass to Steve Sweeney for a last-second 24–22 Cal victory.[21]

1974: Mike Langford nailed a 50-yard field goal on the final play for a 22–20 Stanford triumph over the 19th-ranked Bears.[21]

1982: See below and The Play.

1988: With the score tied, Cal marched to the Stanford 3-yard line with 4 seconds remaining in the game. Called "the Cadillac of kickers in college football" by Cal coach Bruce Snyder, all Pac-10 and future all-American Robbie Keen lined up for a 21-yard field goal attempt to win the game on the final play. When the ball was snapped, Stanford redshirt freshman Tuan Van Le raced from the left end of the defensive line to block the kick and preserve a 19–19 tie. As Stanford was the holder of the Axe going into the game, the tie meant the Axe returned to the Farm for another year. The result was celebrated in the stadium as a victory by Stanford as the Axe was paraded by the Stanford Axe Committee and football players before jubilant Cardinal fans, with stunned Bear fans looking on. This was the only Big Game to end in a tie after 1953 and under current overtime rules may be the last Big Game to end tied.[20]

1990: In a game that echoed "The Play" eight years earlier, Stanford trailed 25–18 late. Quarterback Jason Palumbis threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ed McCaffrey to make the score 25–24, but the team failed to convert the a two-point conversion. Thinking the game to be all but over, Cal fans rushed the field, resulting in a 15-yard delay of game penalty. Stanford's Dan Byers then recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Cal 37. Palumbis's pass to McCaffrey to set up a field goal fell short, but a Cal defender was called for roughing Palumbis. Stanford kicker John Hopkins then connected on a 39-yard field goal as time expired, giving Stanford a 27–25 victory.[22]

2000: Stanford's Casey Moore caught the winning touchdown on the final play of the first-ever Big Game to go into overtime.[20]

2009: Cal's Michael Mohamed intercepted a pass at the Cal 3-yard line with 1:36 left to preserve a Cal win over #14 Stanford, 34–28.[23]

2010: #6 Stanford, in a 48-14 victory, ties Cal's 1975 record for most points scored in a Big Game.[24]

2013: Winning 63–13, #10 Stanford set the record for most points scored in a Big Game, shattering the previous record of 48 shared by Cal in 1975 and Stanford in 2010. The 50-point victory margin also set a Big Game record, breaking the previous record that had stood for 83 years when Stanford beat Cal 41-0 in 1930. The 76 total points scored by both teams broke the record of 66 set in 2000. With the victory, Stanford clinched the Pac-12 North Division Championship while Cal ended its season at 1–11, the most losses in one season in Cal football history.[25]

The Play[edit]

Main article: The Play

The conclusion of the 85th Big Game on November 20, 1982 would go down as perhaps the most remarkable play in college football history. Cal held a lead late in the game, but Stanford, led by John Elway, drove down the field to retake the lead, and seemingly elevate Elway to the first bowl game of his college career, since a Stanford victory would have resulted in an invitation to the Hall of Fame Bowl.[26] More importantly, Elway, with a victory, might well have won the Heisman Trophy.[citation needed] In what is now known simply as "The Play," four Cal players lateraled the ball five times on a kickoff return with four seconds left on the clock. Kevin Moen, who was also the initial ball carrier, ran for a touchdown while knocking down the final Stanford "defender," trombone player Gary Tyrrell, who had run onto the field with the rest of the band to celebrate prematurely.

The Play is often recounted with KGO radio announcer Joe Starkey's emotional call of The Play, which he hailed as "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!" The legitimacy of The Play has remained controversial among some Stanford fans. To this day, the final score in the official record shows Cal winning by a score of 25–20, whereas in many Stanford publications it is recorded as Stanford 20, Cal 19 due to Stanford's contention that a Cal ball carrier had his knee down and the last lateral was actually an illegal forward pass, either of which would have resulted in the end of the play.

Game results[edit]

█ Blue: California victories (46)
█ Red: Stanford victories (59)
█ White: Tied games (11)
█ Black: No games (7)
Cal's home stadium: California Memorial Stadium
Big Game trophy:
the Stanford Axe in 2008
Stanford's home stadium: Stanford Stadium
Bold font: Winning team
Italic font: Losing team
Plain font: Tied games

Visiting team
Home team
Notes
1892
California: 10
Stanford: 14
[27][28]
1892
Stanford: 10
California: 10
[27][28]
1893
California: 6
Stanford: 6
[27]
1894
Stanford: 6
California: 0
[27]
1895
California: 6
Stanford: 6
[29]
1896
Stanford: 20
California: 0
[29]
1897
California: 0
Stanford: 28
[30]
1898
Stanford: 0
California: 22
[30]
1899
California: 30
Stanford: 0
[31]

V
H
N
1900
Stanford: 5
California: 0
[31]
1901
California: 2
Stanford: 0
[31]
1902
Stanford: 0
California: 16
[32]
1903
California: 6
Stanford: 6
[32]
1904
Stanford: 18
California: 0
[33]
1905
California: 5
Stanford: 12
[34]
1906
Stanford:6
California: 3
Rugby
1907
California: 11
Stanford: 21
Rugby
1908
Stanford: 12
California: 3
Rugby
1909
California: 19
Stanford: 13
Rugby

V
H
N
1910
Stanford: 6
California: 25
Rugby
1911
California :21
Stanford: 3
Rugby
1912
Stanford: 3
California: 3
Rugby
1913
California: 8
Stanford: 13
Rugby
1914
Stanford: 36
California: 8
Rugby
1915–1917
No games
California resumes football,
Stanford still playing rugby
1918
No game[35]
1919
California :14
Stanford: 10
[36]

V
H
N
1920
Stanford: 0
California: 38
1921
California: 42
Stanford: 7
[37]
1922
California: 28
Stanford: 0
[38]
1923
Stanford: 0
California: 9
[39]
1924
Stanford: 20
California: 20
1925
California: 14
Stanford: 27
1926
Stanford: 41
California: 6
1927
California: 6
Stanford: 13
1928
Stanford: 13
California: 13
1929
California: 6
Stanford: 21

V
H
N
1930
Stanford: 41
California: 0
1931
California: 6
Stanford: 0
1932
Stanford: 0
California: 0
1933
California: 3
Stanford: 7
1934
Stanford: 9
California: 7
1935
California: 0
Stanford: 13
1936
Stanford: 0
California: 20
1937
California: 13
Stanford: 0
1938
Stanford: 0
California: 6
1939
California: 32
Stanford: 14

V
H
N
1940
Stanford: 13
California: 7
1941
California: 16
Stanford: 0
1942
Stanford: 26
California: 7
1943–1945
No games

World War II
1946
Stanford: 25
California: 6
1947
California: 21
Stanford: 18
1948
Stanford: 6
California: 7
1949
California: 33
Stanford: 14

V
H
N
1950
Stanford: 7
California: 7
1951
California: 20
Stanford: 7
1952
Stanford: 0
California: 26
1953
California: 21
Stanford: 21
1954
Stanford: 20
California: 28
1955
California: 0
Stanford: 19
1956
Stanford: 18
California: 20
1957
California: 12
Stanford: 14
1958
Stanford: 15
California: 16
1959
California: 20
Stanford: 17

V
H
N
1960
Stanford: 10
California: 21
1961
California: 7
Stanford: 20
1962
Stanford: 30
California: 13
1963
California: 17
Stanford: 28
1964
Stanford: 21
California: 3
1965
California: 7
Stanford: 9
1966
Stanford: 13
California: 7
1967
California: 26
Stanford: 3
1968
Stanford: 20
California: 0
1969
California: 28
Stanford: 29

V
H
N
1970
Stanford: 14
California: 22
1971
California: 0
Stanford: 14
1972
Stanford: 22
California: 24
1973
California: 17
Stanford: 26
1974
Stanford: 22
California: 20
1975
California: 48
Stanford: 15
1976
Stanford: 27
California: 24
1977
California: 3
Stanford: 21
1978
Stanford: 30
California: 10
1979
California: 21
Stanford: 14

V
H
N
1980
Stanford: 23
California: 28
1981
California: 21
Stanford: 42
1982
Stanford: 20
California: 25
See The Play
1983
California: 27
Stanford: 18
1984
Stanford: 27
California: 10
1985
California: 22
Stanford: 24
1986
Stanford: 11
California: 17
1987
California: 7
Stanford: 31
1988
Stanford: 19
California: 19
[40]
1989
California: 14
Stanford: 24

V
H
N
1990
Stanford: 27
California: 25
1991
California: 21
Stanford: 38
1992
Stanford: 41
California: 21
1993
California: 46
Stanford: 17
1994
Stanford: 23
California: 24
1995
California: 24
Stanford: 29
1996
Stanford: 42
California: 21
1997
California: 20
Stanford: 21
1998
Stanford: 10
California: 3
1999
California: 13
Stanford: 31

V
H
N
2000
Stanford: 36
California: 30
Overtime
2001
California: 28
Stanford: 35
2002
Stanford: 7
California: 30
2003
California: 28
Stanford: 16
2004
Stanford: 6
California: 41
2005
California: 27
Stanford: 3
2006
Stanford: 17
California: 26
2007
California: 13
Stanford: 20
2008
Stanford: 16
California: 37
2009
California: 34
Stanford: 28

V
H
N
2010
Stanford: 48
California: 14
2011
California: 28
Stanford: 31
2012
Stanford: 21
California: 3
2013
California: 13
Stanford: 63

Pregame traditions[edit]

2008 bonfire at the Greek Theater

In the week before the game, both schools celebrate the occasion with rallies, reunions, and luncheons. Cal students hold a traditional pep rally and bonfire at the Hearst Greek Theatre on the eve of the game, while Stanford students stage the Gaieties, a theatrical production that both celebrates and pokes fun at the rivalry. The week also includes various other athletic events including "The Big Splash" (water polo), "The Big Spike" (volleyball), "The Big Sweep" (Quidditch),[41] "The Big Freeze" (ice hockey), "The Big Sail" (sailing), and the Ink Bowl, a touch football game between the members of the two schools' newspapers. In addition, the two schools compete in a blood drive called "Rivals for Life."

The Big Game Bonfire Rally is a pep and bonfire rally that takes place at University of California, Berkeley in Hearst Greek Theatre on the eve of the Big Game. More than 10,000 students gather to hear the history about The Stanford Axe and the Big Game. The University of California Rally Committee is in charge of the planning and setting up the bonfire, as well as refueling it during the rally. Specifically, freshman members of the UC Rally Committee, as well as freshman band members are sent out with pallets to the chanting of "freshmen, more wood." Several alumni show up to perform traditional rituals. A tradition unique to Cal is the performance of the Haka, a traditional Maori war dance/chant. Traditionally performed by an alumni Yell Leader, the Haka performed was written in the 1960s by a Cal rugby player of Maori descent. The traditional Axe Yell is also made and visits from the UC Men's Octet and Golden Overtones are always expected. The University of California Marching Band is also present, playing traditional Cal songs throughout the duration of the Rally. The highlight of the Rally is the lighting of Big Game Bonfire itself, with the fire reaching over eight stories high at its zenith.

The Big Game Bonfire Rally always ends with the reciting of a speech known as the "Andy Smith Eulogy" or "The Spirit of California". Written in remembrance of the fabled Cal football coach, who led the Bears to five straight undefeated seasons starting in 1920s before tragically dying of pneumonia in 1925, the speech closes the Rally annually. During the speech, candles are passed out among the attendants and are lit for the singing of the campus alma mater, "All Hail Blue and Gold."

For decades, Stanford also held a bonfire on the dry lakebed of Lake Lagunita, but this was discontinued in the 1990s due to the lake being a habitat for the vulnerable California tiger salamander. Stanford now holds a laser light show commonly known as the "Non-Fire," as well as the annual student produced play, "Gaieties," during the week leading up to Big Game in place of a Bonfire Rally.[42]

Rivalry in other sports[edit]

In other sports, matchups between Cal and Stanford are not as important to the students and the fanbase, but are still hyped and many feature their own nicknames based on the word "big." Examples include:

  • Men's and Women's Rowing - The "Big Row" now in honor of Cal coxswain Jill Costello who died of stage 4 lung cancer in 2010.
  • Volleyball – The "Big Spike"
  • Men's Basketball - The "Big Tipoff"
  • Water Polo – The "Big Splash"
  • Ice Hockey – The "Big Freeze"
  • Sailing - The "Big Sail," held at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco

In addition, in rugby, the two schools have a trophy of their own called the "Scrum Axe". In men's basketball the semiannual matchups are sometimes labeled the "Big Game" but it is not official. In women's basketball, the meetings are simply called the "Battle of the Bay."

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ A Ghastly Holocaust: Football Spectators Plunged into Molten Glass, The (Adelaide) Advertiser, (Friday 11 January 1901), p.6.
  2. ^ Twenty Score Persons Make Awful Plunge: Seventeen People Meet Most Awful Death: Two San Jose Men Die Amid Sizzling Shrieking Human Mass in Collapsed Factory at Big Game, The (San Jose) Evening News, (Friday 30 November 1900), p.1, p.5.
  3. ^ Through a Roof to Death, The (Crawfordsville) Daily News-Review, (Friday, 30 November 1900), p.2.
  4. ^ Spectators Fell Into Molten Glass: Thirteen Dead, One Hundred Injured by Collapse of a Roof Overlooking the Stanford-Berkeley Game at San Francisco, The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, (Friday 30 November 1900), p.1.
  5. ^ Death Reaps a Dread Harvest of Lives and Plunges City into Gloom, The San Francisco Call, (Friday, 30 November 1900), p.2.
  6. ^ Eskanazi, J., "Sudden Death: Boys Fell to Their Doom in S.F.'s Forgotten Disaster", San Francisco Weekly News, 15 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Many changes in rugby game". The Evening News (San Jose). September 14, 1906. Retrieved November 10, 2010. 
  8. ^ Elliott, Orrin Leslie (1937). Stanford University – The First Twenty Five Years 1891–1925. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. pp. 231–233. Retrieved November 10, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Migdol, Gary (1997). Stanford: Home of Champions. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 34–60. ISBN 1-57167-116-1. 
  10. ^ Park, Roberta J (Winter 1984). "From Football to Rugby—and Back, 1906–1919: The University of California–Stanford University Response to the "Football Crisis of 1905"". Journal of Sport History 11 (3): 33. 
  11. ^ "Bob Murphy Shares His Love of the Tradition of The Big Game: Murphy has been broadcasting Stanford football for over 40 years". Cardinal Athletics. Stanford University. November 17, 2005. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  12. ^ Snapp, Martin (Winter 2011). "Alumni Gazette". California (Cal Alumni Association) 122 (4): 72. ISSN 0008-1302. 
  13. ^ http://www.stanford.edu/group/axecomm/axebook/origin2.html
  14. ^ FitzGerald, Tom (August 23, 2010). "NFL marketers want 'Big Game' trademark; Cal, Stanford fight to protect symbol of football rivalry". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  15. ^ FitzGerald, Tom (August 22, 2010). "NFL sidelines its pursuit of Big Game trademark". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  16. ^ "Cal, Stanford consider moving Big Game to Levi's Stadium". KGO-TV. August 24, 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Kroichick, Ron (August 24, 2013). "Cal ponders moving 2014 Big Game". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  18. ^ Faraudo, Jeff (August 29, 2013). "Cal opts against Big Game at Levi's Stadium". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  19. ^ Breier, John (November 18, 2009). "A Come-Through Story: The 1924 Big Game". Scout.com. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b c d "Big Game History and Tradition". GoStanford.com. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b "The Big Game: Cal vs. Stanford". Scout.com. November 22, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  22. ^ Peters, Keith (November 19, 1997). "Big Game Flashback". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Cal beats #14 Stanford 34–28 in Big Game". abcnews.com. November 21, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Cal Football Postgame Notes – 113th Big Game vs. Stanford (Sat., Nov. 20)". CBS Interactive. November 20, 2010. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  25. ^ FitzGerald, Tom (November 23, 2013). "Stanford routs Cal, reaches Pac-12 title game". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 23, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Stanford Cards get bowl bid". The Bulletin. November 16, 1982. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  27. ^ a b c d Played at Haight Street Grounds, San Francisco.
  28. ^ a b Two games were played in 1892: one in spring, and one in fall.
  29. ^ a b Played at Central Park, San Francisco.
  30. ^ a b Played at Recreation Grounds, 8th and Harrison Street, San Francisco.
  31. ^ a b c Played at 16th and Folsom Street Grounds, San Francisco.
  32. ^ a b Played at Richmond Grounds, San Francisco.
  33. ^ First game at California Field.
  34. ^ First game at Stanford Field. Hereafter, games in odd-numbered years are played at Stanford and even-numbered years at Berkeley (except 1922–1923).
  35. ^ Unofficial football game played by Student Army Training Corps (SATC) teams and won by California 67–0. Not included in series record.
  36. ^ Stanford resumes football.
  37. ^ First game at Stanford Stadium.
  38. ^ Game played at Stanford while California Memorial Stadium under construction.
  39. ^ First game at California Memorial Stadium.
  40. ^ Last tie game.
  41. ^ "Cal & Stanford Create Inaugural Division I Quidditch Teams". California Golden Blogs. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  42. ^ "Bonfire canceled to protect salamander habitat". Stanford University News Service News Release. 10/07/93. 

External links[edit]