Cal-Stanford: Different Approaches
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 08, 2005

THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the plans for a new Stanford Stadium gave Bay Area columnists a stick with which to beat Cal, for its slow-moving stadium project. One columnist even pointed out that the same thing happened with the original stadiums, with Stanford finishing first in 1921 and Cal second in 1923.

Yes, but look at the results. Calís Memorial Stadium is always in the top 10, often the top five, in surveys of the best college football venues in the country. Anybody remember seeing Stanford Stadium on any of those lists?

In fact, this is apples and oranges. As in everything else, the Cal and Stanford approaches are totally different. Stanford is downsizing a stadium. Cal is having to retrofit because itís on an earthquake fault line, renovate the stadium itself and improve the football facilities to keep Jeff Tedford, which has to be a priority.

The price tag for the downsized Stanford Stadium is an estimated $85 million, of which about $60 million has been raised. The price tag for what Cal is trying to do may reach $250 million. A slightly different proposition, but one which the columnists comparing the projects donít take into consideration. Donít confuse me with facts; my mind is made up.

The football programs are in much different positions, too, and not just because the Bears have had a surge since Tedford arrived and Stanford tanked with Buddy Teeevens.

I wrote about this extensively in an earlier piece on this website Ė February 25, if you want to look it up in ďArchive.Ē In a nutshell, the biggest difference is that Cal has an enormous alumni base in the Bay Area, because it is a much bigger school and itís a state school. Stanford is a small school with an increasingly international student body. Those students have minimal interest in football and they donít stay in the area.

So, it makes sense for Stanford to downsize to just over 50,000 seats because the Big Game and perhaps the Notre Dame game are the only ones which would draw bigger crowds than that, and those games are only every other year. In fact, thereís a considerable segment of alumni who would like to see Stanford drop the Notre Dame series, especially because Notre Dame has dictated that the games at Stanford sometimes be played after the Big Game.

If Walt Harris can revive the football program Ė and I think he can Ė Stanford will draw better, but it will never have the dramatic rise in attendance that Cal has seen since Tedford arrived because the alumni base is so much smaller.

It would make no sense for Cal to downsize to that 50,000-seat size because, when the team is good, they can draw frequent 60,000-plus crowds to games.

THOUGH THEREíS been talk of what to do with Stanford Stadium for years, extensive planning didnít begin until last year. I wrote about this in The Chronicle in December, 2004, and broke the story about the current plans in The Chronicle on May 26.

One combined solution to the 49er/Stanford stadium problems that was suggested by many readers, building a stadium that would be used by Stanford on Saturdays and the 49ers on Sunday, simply was not be feasible because of the opposition of Palo Alto residents.

Those residents are still upset over the 1985 Super Bowl which was held at Stanford. The many visitors from out of the area stayed in San Francisco hotels during the week, ate in San Francisco restaurants and came to Palo Alto only for the game. Meanwhile, Palo Alto had to pay for the expenses of having extra police for the event, and they had to put up with the traffic mess before and after the game. They would strongly oppose having 10 pro games on the Stanford campus each year Ė as Berkeley residents would for pro games at Memorial Stadium, if that was ever proposed.

So, the Stanford Board of Trustees would never have approved a shared-stadium plan. Now, itís a moot issue because capacity would not be nearly high enough for the 49ers when theyíre winning Ė though the Niners may long for 50,000 crowds if they repeat last yearís 2-14 disaster.

Eliminating the running track will make a huge difference because fans will be so much closer to the field. Stanford no longer needs that track because it has a world class track and field facility to the west of the stadium.

Still, those of us who are old enough have a very fond memory of the U.S.-U.S.S.R track-and-field meet which was held at Stanford Stadium in 1962. It was a very special event, held at the very height of Cold War tensions. For a moment, we could all forget the threat of nuclear war that hung over us in the joy of watching the athletes compete and then embrace one another after the competition.

THERE HAS been debate about the Cal stadium, too, before the current plan was adopted.

One group was even pushing to build another stadium on the campus in the area of Edwards Field, to get away from the earthquake fault. That plan was never seriously considered by the administration, for which Iím glad. Even in the terrible Tom Holmoe years, going to the games was still an enjoyable experience for us Old Blues because it brought back so many memories. When I go to games, I like to walk around campus for awhile and then take the walk up to the stadium, remembering how I did it as a student.

Thatís another example of the difference between the Cal/Stanford programs. Parking is problematical, to be kind, at Cal and Stanford has acres of it, but thereís a disconnect between the stadium and the main part of campus. Thatís why the most memorable Big Games are at Berkeley. Going to the game, you either walk through the campus or by the fraternity/sorority houses with their decorations and celebrations Ė or both. At Stanford, you party in the parking lot and then go to the game.

SO, SAVING Memorial Stadium is a must.

Itís a very costly program and a time-consuming one. Athletic director Sandy Barbour is running a very tight ship, confiding in few people, so the once leak-ridden athletic department is sealed tight. The only news comes in carefully worded announcements.

Still, it appears progress is being made. Tedford, who gets his news first-hand, has said heís pleased with whatís being done, which is vital. The success of the football program has brought much-needed revenue to the athletic program.

In the near future, I hope we can see both a modern Stanford Stadium and a revitalized Memorial Stadium, different approaches but very good outcomes for both schools.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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