Stanford punishes Berkeley football fans

Thomas Lifson
I was one of many Bay Area residents shocked when Stanford announced plans to downsize its football stadium from a seating capacity of 85,000 to about 50,000, an "improvement" that was finished in time for last year's football season. To be sure, the vast old stadium put fans a considerable distance from the field, and the bench seating was less than comfortable. But it was the largest sports venue in the Bay Area, and had hosted World Cup soccer play, among other distinctions.

To many, the downsizing seemed a sign that Stanford has permanently written off the possibility of having a big time college football program. In recent years, the stadium has had a lot of empty seats, not a morale-builder for either players or fans. And the new stadium featuring comfortable seats for today's larger fannies and a more intimate viewing experience had more appeal for Stanford's mostly affluent alumni. But the Pac Ten Conference is not a comfortable neighborhood for less than a first class football program, and Stanford has had a poor record of late.

But now the real reason behind the downsizing is becoming clear: frustrating fans of the highly successful Berkeley football team.

The Big Game (between Stanford and Berkeley) always dominates the football season of both schools, regardless of the actual standing of the teams in conference play. Last year's Big Game was played at Cal (I was there in the stands), and as always, it was a sellout crowd, something not unusual last year thanks to Berkeley's excellent season. Cal has in recent years made a big commitment to its football program, and the team has been performing well, winning the Holiday Bowl last year. The University is attempting to renovate its own stadium (with no downsizing) and build training facilities, though eco-creeps are sitting in atop some oak trees that would (gasp!) have to be cut down, delaying the construction. The trees, by the way, are not an endangered species. My neighborhood (I am within walking distance of the stadium) is full fo them.

This year's Big Game is the first in the downsized Stanford Stadium, and Berkeley fans are discovering in large numbers that they cannot buy tickets. The San Francisco Chronicle (also being downsized) reports:
In the past, any Cal season ticket holder automatically got a ticket to the Big Game. But that has changed -- tickets for November's showdown are expected to be rarer than Stanford victories last year. The only way for Cal fans to get Big Game tickets at this point is to have donated at least $6,800 to the athletic booster fund or to buy Stanford season tickets.

Many have.

"Oh, yeah, a lot of Cal fans have bought Stanford season tickets," said Catherine Brennan, director of alumni athletic events at the Cal Alumni Association. "It's unfortunate, but if you really want a ticket to something, you'll find a way to get one."
I have to hand it to Stanford. This is quite a coup, a devilishly clever one. Forcing Berkeley fans to buy Stanford season tickets while downgrading the football program is the ultimate revenge. Except, of course, that the football team will be doormats as long as they stay in the Pac Ten. In the end, it is a loser's vengeance.

By the way, for the record, I attended Stanford briefly, and my son is a student at Cal. I root for Cal. 
I was one of many Bay Area residents shocked when Stanford announced plans to downsize its football stadium from a seating capacity of 85,000 to about 50,000, an "improvement" that was finished in time for last year's football season. To be sure, the vast old stadium put fans a considerable distance from the field, and the bench seating was less than comfortable. But it was the largest sports venue in the Bay Area, and had hosted World Cup soccer play, among other distinctions.

To many, the downsizing seemed a sign that Stanford has permanently written off the possibility of having a big time college football program. In recent years, the stadium has had a lot of empty seats, not a morale-builder for either players or fans. And the new stadium featuring comfortable seats for today's larger fannies and a more intimate viewing experience had more appeal for Stanford's mostly affluent alumni. But the Pac Ten Conference is not a comfortable neighborhood for less than a first class football program, and Stanford has had a poor record of late.

But now the real reason behind the downsizing is becoming clear: frustrating fans of the highly successful Berkeley football team.

The Big Game (between Stanford and Berkeley) always dominates the football season of both schools, regardless of the actual standing of the teams in conference play. Last year's Big Game was played at Cal (I was there in the stands), and as always, it was a sellout crowd, something not unusual last year thanks to Berkeley's excellent season. Cal has in recent years made a big commitment to its football program, and the team has been performing well, winning the Holiday Bowl last year. The University is attempting to renovate its own stadium (with no downsizing) and build training facilities, though eco-creeps are sitting in atop some oak trees that would (gasp!) have to be cut down, delaying the construction. The trees, by the way, are not an endangered species. My neighborhood (I am within walking distance of the stadium) is full fo them.

This year's Big Game is the first in the downsized Stanford Stadium, and Berkeley fans are discovering in large numbers that they cannot buy tickets. The San Francisco Chronicle (also being downsized) reports:
In the past, any Cal season ticket holder automatically got a ticket to the Big Game. But that has changed -- tickets for November's showdown are expected to be rarer than Stanford victories last year. The only way for Cal fans to get Big Game tickets at this point is to have donated at least $6,800 to the athletic booster fund or to buy Stanford season tickets.

Many have.

"Oh, yeah, a lot of Cal fans have bought Stanford season tickets," said Catherine Brennan, director of alumni athletic events at the Cal Alumni Association. "It's unfortunate, but if you really want a ticket to something, you'll find a way to get one."
I have to hand it to Stanford. This is quite a coup, a devilishly clever one. Forcing Berkeley fans to buy Stanford season tickets while downgrading the football program is the ultimate revenge. Except, of course, that the football team will be doormats as long as they stay in the Pac Ten. In the end, it is a loser's vengeance.

By the way, for the record, I attended Stanford briefly, and my son is a student at Cal. I root for Cal.