When the Pac-12 expanded after the 2011 season, one of the issues debated was how the new six-team divisions would accommodate the traditional pairings of the traditional in-state rivalries of California: Cal and Stanford playing USC and UCLA.
Other in-state rivalries were preserved by the division alignment -- the rivalries between the Northwest schools were preserved because all four were in the Pac-12 North -- but the Bears, Cardinal, Trojans and Bruins would be split. A bargain was struck to keep those two pairs of rivals together on the schedule, while still keeping them in separate divisions.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1706136-texas-s-strength-i... Athletic directors like Sandy Barbour championed being able to play the other three California schools every year, championing the annual trips by Cal and Stanford to one of the Southern California schools as necessary for recruiting, ensuring the northern schools at least one game in the fertile Southern California recruiting territory every year.
"I'm going to be honest with you," Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said on the Pac-12 conference call on Tuesday, "it doesn't make any sense at all, to me. The way it was explained to me is that it was done for tradition's sake."
Cal, along with Oregon State, Oregon and Washington, were charter members of the then-Pacific Coast Conference, formed in 1915. In 1917, the conference added Washington State. In 1918, Stanford joined. USC joined in 1922, and UCLA in 1928.
Since all four teams were members of the conference (1928), The Bears have played the Trojans at least once each year, though they did not start playing the Bruins until 1933. From 1933 on, Cal and UCLA have played at least once per season.
"I understand that it's tradition that the California schools played each other every year -- I get it -- but if it's done for tradition, then why are we playing UCLA on every day except Saturday?" Dykes said.
The Bears and Bruins played on a Thursday night last year, the only time they've played not on a Saturday since the conference expansion. That being said, Cal will play USC on a Thursday this year, and did the same in 2014.
"There's not a whole lot of tradition involved," Dykes said. "I don't really understand it. I don't think it makes any sense at all. If you're going to treat the games differently, then make them traditional day games. You can't talk out of both sides of your mouth."
Among the casualties of the Pac-12 expansion to 12 teams, with the addition of a championship game, was the traditional placement of certain rivalries on the calendar -- notably, the Big Game, which traditionally, has been played the weekend before Thanksgiving, and was the last regular-season game of the season. Only once in the past four years has the game met both of those conditions.
Since the expansion, Cal has played Stanford on Oct. 20 (2012), Nov. 23 (2013, the only time the game has been the final game of the season since the expansion), Nov. 22 (2014, succeeded on the schedule by BYU) and Nov. 21 (succeeded in the regular-season finale by Arizona State). The game maintained its traditional weekend, but only once in four years was it the final game of the regular season, and it will once again not be the final game in 2016.
While the Big Game was traditionally a noontime affair, Big Games since the expansion have been played at noon (2012), 1 PM (2013), 1 PM (2014) and 7:30 PM (2015) and this year, kickoff has yet to be announced.
In the years immediately before the expansion, the Big Game was contested at 7:15 PM (2011), 12:30 PM (2010) and 4:30 PM (2009).
It should be noted that Cal has not beaten USC, UCLA or Stanford since the 2012 season, when the Bears upset the Bruins on Homecoming at California Memorial Stadium.