Dec. 20, 2009
SAN DIEGO - The Cal football team had a full day of Poinsettia Bowl events on Sunday that included a morning visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, an afternoon practice and a visit to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego.
The day started with the arrival at the front gates of the zoo of three buses carrying the majority of the team's players. The team was greeted at the front entrance of the by the Poinsettia Bowl committee and shortly after entering, several of the Cal players were given an opportunity to participate in the zoo's Backstage Pass program. The players were treated to up-close and behind-the-scene visits with a pair of rhinoceros, a binturong and a cheetah, who remained amazingly calm while the players posted for a series of photos with the big cat.
The visit with Karroo, a South African cheetah, was the highlight of the zoo trip. The elegant animal was brought in on a leash by the zoo's handlers along with her canine companion, Sven Olof. According to the zoo staff, the golden retriever's presence helps keep the cheetah calm. A couple of the team's - linebackers Eddie Young and Mychal Kendricks - were even brave enough to pet the cheetah ... with the zoo staff's permission, of course.
Earlier, several members of the Cal contingent were introduced to Surat and Soman, a pair of Indian rhinos, who weigh more than 3,000 pounds each. They were given instructions and then the chance to feed the animals from a bucket of carrots, celery sticks and alfalfa treats.
The Golden Bears spent the remainder of the morning visiting the entire park before heading back to the hotel to prepare for an afternoon practice.
San Diego Practice #2
Cal was on the field at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium before 4:00 p.m. and conducted a crisp hour-and-a-half session that was a combination of individual and team work. The team will have only one remaining full workout on Monday and a Tuesday walk-through to prepare for their Poinsettia Bowl opponent Utah (9-3, 6-2 Mountain West Conference). The game will be televised live by ESPN on Wednesday, Dec. 23 (5:00 p.m. PT). An online broadcast will also be available on ESPN360.com.
The contest matches a pair of teams that have combined for 12 consecutive bowl victories, with Cal winning its last four postseason games and Utah it's past eight. Cal is also extending its school-run of post-season appearances to seven. "Today was very focused and high energy," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "I've been pleased with the way these guys have responded and prepared throughout bowl practices, and here we've been able to hone in on it."
"I feel very comfortable with the way we prepare for bowl games," Tedford added later. "I feel comfortable with how our kids go into it. I've been pleased with how we prepared."
As part of the Poinsettia Bowl's affiliation with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego, members of the Cal and Utah football teams visited with several families during an event in downtown San Diego on Sunday afternoon.
For Cal, the players who attended were Jahvid Best, Matt Summers-Gavin, Spencer Hagan, Tad Smith and Allan Bridgford. During their visit, the Golden Bears handed out souvenirs to the seven children and their families who were present, in addition to signing autographs and posing for numerous photos.
As part of the sponsorship, one dollar from every game ticket sold to the Poinsettia Bowl will be donated to the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year, the group was presented with a check for over $41,000. More than 600 "Wish Families" will attend Wednesday's game between the Bears and the Utes. The guests will enjoy a private tailgate party and be provided sweatshirts, prizes and a block of seats. The entire Wish Party will be invited to participate in the pregame parade on the field and six lucky kids will serve in such roles as honorary team captains, coin toss participants and tee runners.
The mission of Make-A-Wish is to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Members from each of the children's families at Sunday's gathering stood and spoke about the meaning of Make-A-Wish and told how they are coping with their specific illnesses, which included leukemia, liver disease, sickle cell anemia and one 11-year-old boy who had undergone four open heart surgeries.
For more information or to donate, visit wish.org.
More Bowl Week Activities Scheduled
In addition to conducting its third workout in San Diego at Torero Stadium, Cal players and coaches are scheduled to take part in the Poinsettia Bowl Grand Prix along with members of the Utah team at the Miramar Speed Circuit on Monday afternoon. Members of both teams are scheduled to race karts at speeds up to 40 mph in a friendly competition on an indoor ¼-mile asphalt track. The Poinsettia Bowl March through the Gaslamp begins at 6:00 p.m., with the marching bands and spirit squads parading through the district and meeting at 5th and Market Streets for a Battle of the Bands.
The official Poinsettia Bowl press conference featuring Cal head coach Jeff Tedford and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham at the Omni Hotel San Diego kicks off Tuesday's activities at 10:30 a.m. Both teams will then participate in the AT&T Team Luncheon on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum beginning at 11:30 a.m.
For bowl tickets, information and complete coverage of the team's activities at the Poinsettia Bowl, visit the Cal Bowl Central page or call (800) GO BEARS.