Big Game (football)

Big Game (football)

The Big Game is the annual football game between Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley (known simply as "Cal"), held in late November or early December. The first Big Game was held in March 19 1892 on San Francisco's Haight Street grounds when Stanford beat Cal 14-10. It is the tenth longest rivalry in NCAA Division 1 FBS football. Stanford leads the series record at 55-44-11 (wins-losses-ties). Stanford won the most recent (2007) Big Game, after a series of five wins by Cal (2002-2006). The location of the game alternates between the two schools each year. In even numbered years, the game is played at Berkeley; in odd numbered years, at Stanford.

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 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) and "The Big Freeze" (ice hockey). The overall athletic rivalry between the schools has been solidified into "The Lexus Gauntlet", an annual award given to the school winning the most rivalries and championships under a point system.


The Big Game is the biggest college football event in the Bay Area, and has a rich history. Future U.S. President Herbert Hoover was the Stanford team manager for the first Big Game, held in 1892. The term "Big Game" was first used in 1900, which also saw the most tragic event to happen at a Big Game. The match that year was played in San Francisco. A large group of spectators 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. Thirteen died and 78 were injured [] . The first-ever card stunts were performed at the halftime of the 1910 Big Game. Since 1933, the victor of the game has been granted possession of the Stanford Axe. If the game ended in a tie, the Axe stayed on the side that already possessed it; however, college football games can no longer end in ties. The Axe is a key part of the history, having been stolen on several occasions by both sides, starting at the very first Big Game.

The Big Game has produced several cliffhangers, where the outcome of the game was decided on the final play. In 1972, a Vince Ferragamo touchdown pass to Steve Sweeney resulted in a last second Cal victory, while Mike Langford nailed a 50 yard field goal on the final play for a 22-20 Stanford triumph in 1974. Stanford's Tuan Van Le blocked a 21 yard Cal field goal attempt to preserve a 19-19 tie in 1988. In 1990, Stanford snatched victory in the final 12 seconds by scoring a touchdown, recovering an onside kick, and, aided by a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty, kicking a field goal. In 2000, Stanford's Casey Moore caught the winning touchdown on the final play of the first-ever Big Game to go into overtime.

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

The Play

However, the conclusion of the 85th Big Game on November 20 1982 would go down as perhaps the greatest 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 elevating Elway to the first bowl game of his college career (as Stanford, with a victory, would likely been invited to the Hall of Fame Bowlfact|date=February 2008). More importantly, Elway, with a victory, might well have won the Heisman Trophy.fact|date=February 2008 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. The final ball carrier, Kevin Moen, who was also the initial ball carrier, ran for a touchdown through the Stanford Band, which had run onto the field to celebrate prematurely (although the game clock had run out of time, in football the final play is allowed to be completed), knocking down the final Stanford defender, trombone player Gary Tyrrell. 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 that may have had his knee down and the last lateral was actually an illegal forward pass. Either of these could have resulted in the end of the play.

Naming rights

In March 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the NFL intended to trademark the phrase "The Big Game" in reference to the Super Bowl. [cite news |last=FitzGerald |first=Tom |title=NFL marketers want 'Big Game' trademark; Cal, Stanford fight to protect symbol of football rivalry |url= ] In May 2007, the NFL gave up trying to trademark the phrase, after being faced with opposition from Cal and Stanford.²

Big Game results

Out of the 110 games played, Stanford holds a 55-44 11 game lead. Cumulatively, Stanford has scored 1,755 points compared to Cal's 1,713 points.

Cal bonfire rally

The Cal Bonfire Rally is a pep and bonfire rally that takes place at University of California in Hearst Greek Theatre on the eve of the Big Game. More than 5000 students gather to hear the history about the The Stanford Axe and the Big Game. Several alumni show up to perform traditional rituals. One of those rituals is unique to any college in the US. A Cal alum comes onto the stage and does a Maori "Haka" or a war dance/chant that was originally used by the Maori warriors against their foes. The Haka performed is the Haka made famous by the New Zealand Rugby Team the "All Blacks" called Kamate. Throughout, a big bonfire lights up the theatre setting temperatures sky high. It is said to be the biggest bonfire west of the Mississippi and on the West Coast. Fact|date=February 2007

See also

*The Play
*The Stanford Axe


External links

* [ Big Game scores]
* [ Stanford Magazine feature on Big Game]
* [ The Play]
* [ Transcript of Joe Starkey's call of the Play]
* [ Discussion about the filming of 1925 film, "The Freshman" at the Big Game]
* [ Stanford Daily article on the history of Big Game]
* [ Big Game Videos Summary of the entire 1982 game on]

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