Should Cal Get More Big Game Tickets?
by Glenn Dickey
Feb 07, 2006

CAL MESSAGE boards have been lit up the past week by those protesting the new stadium plans at Stanford which, because of the much-reduced capacity, will limit the number of tickets allotted to Cal fans at the Big Game. I’m dismayed, too – but by the shortsighted reaction of my fellow Old Blues.

I’d like to make two points:

--Stanford people have a perfect right to make plans which boost their program, and a smaller stadium fits their purposes.

The Bay Area college football scene has changed in many ways since I came to The Chronicle in 1963, and probably the biggest change has come at Stanford.

In the ‘60s, even as John Ralston was struggling for success with a program that would result in two Rose Bowl champions at the start of the next decade, the Stanford fan base was very stable. The Stanford media guide doesn’t list game attendances before 1973, but my memory is that most crowds were in the 60,000 range, and they swelled to 80,000-plus for the Big Game and opponents like USC.

That was the period when it was said that Stanford fans invented the practice of tailgating before games – which were always played in the afternoon.

Now, crowds are much smaller. There are several reasons for this. One is the change in the Stanford student body. Stanford has encouraged students from other countries to come to the school. These students have no interest in football when they’re in school, and they don’t stay in the area after graduation. The blue collar fans who used to come to games have left the area, driven out by rising housing prices. To satisfy the needs of television, game times fluctuate, so fans can no longer plan their season. Fans have become accustomed to more comfort, including adequate restroom facilities, and good sightlines, neither of which the old Stanford Stadium offered.

In recognition of the changed reality, Stanford authorities planned a 50,000 seat stadium, which can be expanded by 8-10,000 temporary seats for the Big Game and, perhaps, games against opponents like Notre Dame and USC. Their hope is that a smaller, more comfortable stadium with much better viewing will build their season tickets, so the stadium will be sold out on a season ticket basis. I doubt that will happen because the fan base has shrunk so much, but crowds will certainly be a much higher percentage of capacity than before, which will create additional excitement.

In theory, if the stadium were to be sold out through season tickets, there would only be 3000 permanent seats and the additional temporary seats which would be available for Cal supporters at the Big Game – which is what has caused the uproar from the Cal side.

--The Big Game has become what it is because it is much more than just the game itself.

There are many events involving alumni from both schools during the week, and even one event, at the Bohemian Club, the week before. I go each Big Game week to the Guardsmen’s luncheon, sitting at a table hosted by Stanford alum Dick Schutte, one of the Guardsmen’s founders. The table is split between Cal and Stanford alums, and most of us have been sitting at that same table for years.

There are on campus events involving students, and there are other inter-school competitions during the week. I went to the “Big Sail” last November at the St. Francis Yacht Club and found it entertaining, though mystifying at times.

Many alumni go to events and enjoy the week, without going to the actual game. That was true for me last year. When the game time was moved to 4 p.m., I decided I could be content with watching it on television.

CAL SUPPORTERS have been spoiled in recent years because of the rise of the Bears under Jeff Tedford and the concurrent decline of the Stanford program under Buddy Teevens. The Cal season ticket base has risen to about 43,000. Cal season tickets have guaranteed attendance at the Big Game, whether it is played at Berkeley or Stanford, and a high percentage of Cal season ticket holders attended the game at Stanford last November. It seemed like a Cal home game, with more than half the crowd cheering for the Bears.

This is not a healthy atmosphere, and it has led to excesses on the Cal side.

I have been appalled in recent years by the rudeness of Cal students to the visiting Stanford supporters at Berkeley and by the crowd behavior following the Cal wins. Apparently, that mentality surfaced last year at Stanford, as well. I heard from Stanford alums who said their tailgating areas were invaded by Cal fans who were vulgar and obnoxious.

One of the aspects of the Big Game which has been so appealing in the past has been the civility of fans on both sides. That hasn’t been true of other traditional rivalries – I’ve heard horror stories about the “Civil War” between the Oregon schools, which seems to live up to its nickname – and that civility seems to be breaking down in this rivalry. That is what should concern Cal alumni, more than whether they can get a ticket to the Big Game.

I didn’t think it was healthy for the rivalry when Stanford was beating the Bears every year that Tom Holmoe was on the Cal sidelines, and as much as I’d like to see the Bears win the Big Game every year, I don’t think it would be healthy if Stanford continues to be uncompetitive, as it has been since Tedford’s arrival.

The healthiest thing for the rivalry and for Bay Area football as a whole would be for Stanford to rise up to Cal’s current level. That’s possible, because Walt Harris is a proven coach. Whether he can get enough good players into school is a matter yet to be determined. His recruiting class this year was mediocre.

THE SEATING issue will also arise when (or if) Cal’s Memorial Stadium is re-structured, because the capacity will be reduced. No official figure has been released, but it’s likely to be between 55,000 and 60,000.

It would behoove the athletic directors of both schools to work out an equitable seating arrangement for the supporters from the visiting school at the Big Game. I would suggest that setting a percentage of about 20 per cent for visiting fans would be about right. That would give visiting fans a sizeable representation, but not an overwhelming presence, as Cal fans had at the last Big Game.

That won’t satisfy Cal fans who fear they won’t be able to get a ticket to the Big Game at Stanford, but it’s time they look at what’s important in this great rivalry instead of their own parochial needs.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

© Copyright 2018 Glenn Dickey. All Rights Reserved. The material on this site is protected by US Copyright Laws and cannot be used without the express written consent of the owner. Site design and maintenance by 5 happiness webmaster.