Golden Bear Tour
Perhaps nowhere else in America is the color and pageantry of college football better captured on autumn Saturdays than at the University of
California and Memorial Stadium, which was judged to have the
best view of any college stadium in the country by Sports Illustrated. The rich history of the Golden Bears on
the gridiron, now 118 years strong, has borne some of the most colorful
and time-honored traditions in the sport today.
Blue and Gold
Official colors of the University of California were established
in Berkeley in 1868. The colors were chosen by the University's founders,
who were mostly Yale men who had come West. They selected gold as a color
representing the "Golden State" of California. The blue was selected
from Yale blue. Cal teams have donned the blue and gold since the beginning
of intercollegiate athletic competition in 1882.
In 1895, the University of California track & field team was
the dominant power on the West Coast and decided to challenge several of
the top teams in the Midwest and East on an eight-meet tour that is now
credited by many historians as putting Cal athletics onto the national
scene. As a symbol of the University, Regent Arthur Rodgers, class of 1872,
commissioned a blue silk banner emblazoned with a golden grizzly bear,
the symbol of the state of California. The banner was carried by the team
on its successful tour, which saw them win five of the eight competitions.
Cal athletic fans were so ecstatic over the team's performance that Professor
Charles Mills Gayley was inspired to write the song, "The Golden Bear."
Cal's athletic teams have been known as the Golden Bears ever since.
The Cal rooting section is credited with establishing one of the
most time-honored traditions in college football -- performing card stunts
at college football games. Cal began this activity for the 1910 "Big
Game," a rugby match between California and Stanford. The original
stunts performed that afternoon depicted the Stanford Axe and a big blue
"C" formed on a white background.
The tradition is a crowd favorite at Memorial Stadium as several times
each season Cal students perform as many as 10 different stunts, using
more than 5,000 cards. The painstaking process of plotting the positions
of the cards, which once took days to complete, is now aided by computers
that add to the precision of the images produced in the card section.
The Stanford Axe, the trophy awarded to the annual Big Game winner,
actually made its debut on the eve of a baseball game between the rival
universities of Cal and Stanford on April 13, 1899. On that afternoon at
a pre-game rally, a group of Stanford students introduced the instrument
to decapitate a straw man adorned in California blue and gold, much to
the delight of the Indian faithful who chanted "Give 'em the axe"
while the proceedings continued. The next day, Stanford rooters taunted
their Cal counterparts by cutting pieces of blue and gold ribbon with the
axe and by using it to chop at a designated piece of wood whenever the
Indians made a good play.
Cal rallied for a stunning upset over Stanford, and the Golden Bear
fans were so overcome with emotion that a group of Cal men wrested it away
from the Stanford students and smuggled it across the bay via ferry, where
it was placed in a safe at a Berkeley bank, to be removed once a year for
the Axe Rally.
By 1933, each side decided the Axe would make an ideal Big Game trophy.
It was mounted on a plaque that lists the scores of each game since 1933.
Saturday morning arrives and Cal fans come from across the country.
Tailgaters line Strawberry Canyon and prepare to cheer the Golden Bears
on to victory.
The field is beautiful in its symmetry. The new grass is heavenly green.
Fans quickly fill the seats of the cavernous stadium. The sound of snare
drums begins the staccato march of the California Marching Band as it enters
the stadium. Everyone cheers its appearance.
Oski buzzes around the field, exhorting the fans. The band breaks out
in the Cal fight song.
Suddenly the excitement raises to a fever pitch as the first of the
players appears in the tunnel.