Cal Bears to play 2009-2011 "home" games @ Stanford Stadium
In an extraordinary and unprecedented development announced Wednesday afternoon by the Pacific-10 Conference, Stanford University and the University of California have reached an definitive agreement that will allow the California Golden Bears to move the physical site of their previously scheduled home games during the next three seasons (2009-11) to state-of-the-art Stanford Stadium, clearing the way for a much-needed facelift of seismically suspect Memorial Stadium, an aging facility built in 1923 that inarguably ranks at the bottom of the Pac-10 conference.
A recent Alameda Superior Court ruling in favor of the University of California in its bitter dispute with the Berkeley City Council opened the door for the three-year, two-phase stadium renovation project to proceed and following a series of seven open-session debates. The University of California Board of Regents voted March 27th to approve a proposal for the long-awaited $168 million renovation of California Memorial Stadium, which back in 2007 won the support of the 424,000-strong California Alumni Association. "It was a no-brainer for our Old Blue constituents, the time was essentially 'now or never' since the stadium facility was unlikely to pass state regulatory inspection the next time through" said CAA President Darrell DeSleaze [Cal '93] in a prepared statement (DeSleaze also serves as Vice-Chairman of the "California Memorial Stadium Campaign").
This is not the first time an East Bay-based football team will be making use of a peninsula-based stadium facility. The Oakland Raiders played their 1961 American Football League season at Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco Forty-Niners.
Stanford Athletics is highly experienced in event management and is always prepared to entertain viable opportunities for revenue enhancement. Stanford Stadium has been used previously as a suitable venue for international club soccer and will in fact on Sunday, July 19th at 4:00 pm host an exciting match-up between Club América from Mexico and Italy's famed Inter Milan, a game expected to draw a near-capacity crowd.
Why choose Stanford Stadium?
The Bears' first and obviously least inconvenient alternative choice would have been nearby Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (cap. 62,306), but Oakland Raiders Managing Partner Al Davis reportedly refused to consider having the Raider franchise's facility shared with a collegiate program, stating that "It just wouldn't be consistent with the historical greatness of the Raiders". Cal's second preference was AT&T Park (cap. approx 40,000 ) in downtown San Francisco, but San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome effectively persuaded the city's Board of Supervisors to deny the University of California's proposal in an apparent display of moral support for the Berkeley "tree-sitters". Strong consideration was also given to the concept of utilizing 70,207-seat Candlestick Park, but agreement on financial terms could not be reached with current ownership of the NFL's San Francisco Forty-Niners and it was deemed "too windy" to accommodate the Bear's pass-oriented offensive attack.
Obviously Stanford Stadium's current capacity of 50,000 will make it challenging to accommodate Cal's much larger alumni and fan base, which ever since loading up the "win-at-all-costs" bandwagon the minute they won a few games, has consistently filled the 72,516-seat capacity stadium at picturesque "Strawberry Canyon". A provision of the agreement allows for the installation of temporary bleachers in the north and south end zones that will increase Stanford Stadium's capacity to approximately 65,000 on Cal game days.
Cal's Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour announced the unprecedented arrangement in a special video message prepared for Bear Backers, season-ticket holders and other friends of the department. It certainly didn't come as a shock to Berkeley alumni as the planned renovation project has been in the works for several years. In February 2005, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced detailed plans to renovate crumbling Memorial Stadium, improving the existing facilities and creating a much safer environment for East bay fans as well as the poor endangered people that work at the stadium as part of a huge development program for the school's east campus area.
The overall project encompasses far more than just a simple stadium upgrade. Phase I involves construction of a new Athlete-Student High Performance Center and a June 18 decision by Judge Barbara Miller concluded that state seismic law will allow the center to be built on the proposed site and that, as a whole, the building does not violate earthquake safety laws or state environmental laws. Additional plans are also being developed to improve restroom facilities, seating, other fan amenities and game-day parking in Phase II of the Stadium Master Plan.
So, why is the renovation so critical that Cal would forgo three full seasons of college football in the East Bay?
There isn't much choice. According to California's athletics website, the Hayward Fault passes directly under the playing field of Memorial (nearly from goal post to goal post), where right-lateral strike-slip motion is shifting the northeast half of the building to the southwest at a rate of 1.2 mm/year. Expansion joints have been placed in the walls of the stadium to maintain the integrity of the building. A 1998 seismic safety study at the Berkeley campus gave the stadium a "very, very poor" rating (meaning that the building represents an "obvious and appreciable life hazard" in an earthquake), and estimated the cost of making the structure safe at $44 million.
Cal clearly has its eyes on the Learfield Directors' Cup, which has been dominated by Stanford for the past decade and a half. The planned renovations, if the money can actually be raised, will include a high-performance training and academic center for 13 of the UC's "Olympic" sports, plus study centers, a new home for the Cal Band, and offices for the many people that work inside the confines of the actual stadium. The first phase of the renovations would be to strengthen the seismically vulnerable west side of the stadium, and in later phases stadium renovation plans include the addition of various amenities such as new concessions, restrooms, and a new press box. Small upper decks with club and press seating would be constructed on each side of the stadium, each spanning from about the Five-Yard-Line to the Five-Yard-Line. The first phase of the renovations were slated to take place during the spring and summer of 2006 but were stopped by a court injunction due to three lawsuits against the project. A small group of "tree-sitters" occupied the oak grove on the west side of the stadium beginning on the "Big Game" day in December 2006. Extensive seismic modifications will be required if life safety is to be addressed.
But why should it take three full years?
As Barbour pointed out at the press conference: "Unfortunately, the fact is that we don't have a 'John Arrillaga' to rebuild our stadium with ruthless efficiency and unprecedented expediency. We will have to do it our own way, which will be by necessity painstakingly slow and laborious and likely to generate ill-will and frustration for decades to come. It just is what it is."
The timing is certainly interesting and possibly advantageous. The Bears are coming off an impressive 9-4 campaign this past fall, capped by a pedestrian 24-17 victory over Miami in the Emerald Bowl. The result earned Cal an inflated No. 25 ranking in the final USA Today coaches poll, the fourth time in the last five years the Bears have been ranked at the end of the year. Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, herself a Wake Forest graduate and former captain of the Demon Deacons' field hockey team, served as deputy director of athletics at Notre Dame before taking the job in Berkeley. Ms. Barbour recognizes that there has been considerable uneasiness within the Cal fan base with regard to the temporary relocation of "Bear Territory" to Palo Alto. "Look, we feel fortunate to have a friendly and generous institutional neighbor that shares a common intellectual mission and historical past and is willing to take us in during this regrettable time of physical plant transition. At Cal, we have been fortunate to have won four consecutive post-season bowl games and were able to extend Coach Tedford's contract right before the equities markets went to-hell-in-a-hand-basket and preliminary indications of our project development efforts targeting our bowl-frenzied alumni, despite the challenging economic climate have been, contrary to popular assumption, extremely encouraging. We simply had to move forward, even if it meant temporary use of an understandably unattractive alternative venue."
What will be the impact on the two teams' home schedules?
A joint committee consisting of senior representatives from each of the schools' athletic departments and alumni associations met on eleven separate occasions during the past three months. Obviously, careful consideration was given to creating minimal disruption to the Stanford Football home schedule and a concerted effort was made to avoid significant impact on the program's traditional conference and non-conference rivalries. Other than a change in times, not one of Stanford's 2009 games is to be affected.
California was scheduled to play a total of six games in Memorial Stadium in the previous football schedule, but will now open the 2009 home season (at Stanford) against Maryland on Sept. 5. For California, the revised slate includes three "premium double-headers" with Stanford and two bye weeks, which were created when the Golden Bears' road date with Washington, initially set for Oct. 10, was moved to Dec. 5. The Bear's original schedule called for 12 games over 12 consecutive weekends. Cal's schedule features six contests against teams that played in a bowl game this past year, non-conference opponents Maryland (Humanitarian) and Minnesota (Insight) plus Pac-10 foes USC (Rose), Arizona (Las Vegas), Oregon (Holiday) and Oregon State (Sun). After playing Maryland Sept. 5, the Bears will remain "home" (at Stanford) the following Saturday when they host Pacific Northwestern powerhouse Eastern Washington on Sept. 12. The remaining Cal "home" dates are against USC Oct. 3, Washington State Oct. 24, Oregon State Nov. 7 and Arizona Nov. 14.
Fortunately, there are only a limited number of conflicting dates on the "combined schedule" and the strategy chosen was to aggregate the two teams' athletic events in the few instances in which football games were scheduled to take place on the very same dates. [See schedules below] In a spirit of mutual interest and cooperation, the cross-Bay rival schools will play three "premium double-headers" during each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Fortunately, there was only one situation in which a Stanford game venue had to be changed - The site of the Stanford-San Jose State game on September 4, 2010 needed to be moved to Spartan Stadium to accommodate Cal's home date with visiting Louisiana Tech. It will be only the fourth time in the 64-game series of the storied South Bay rivalry game, formerly known as the "Silicon Valley Classic" and known since 2007 as the "Bill Walsh Legacy Game", that the game will be played in the city of San Jose (most recently in 2006 when the Spartans escaped with a dramatic 35-34 comeback victory that led to a drain-circling downfall of a 2006 season that ultimately led to former Stanford Head Coach Walt Harris's early termination).
Ray M. Purpur, Stanford's Deputy Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation, pointed out that representatives of the two schools were extremely sensitive to possible concerns over schedule conflicts that could negatively affect both revenue and attendance: "We will still have seven home games in 2009, including Notre Dame and Cal and five in 2010 including Wake Forest and USC. In addition, we feel game attendance should benefit from the attraction for fans of being able to take in two three-hour Pac-10 conference games in a single day, with the additional benefit of free two-for-one event parking. Our fans are older and tend to show up very early anyway, so they might as well take in another game and leave early to beat the traffic."
Dan Siegel, an environmentally-friendly Cal alum (Class of '89) who practices law and resides in nearby Menlo Park within an eight-iron of the Stanford campus, is a loyal fan of the old Memorial Stadium, but says the three-year arrangement will substantially lessen his Saturday gameday commute in the coming seasons and make it much easier to attend Cal games with his two young football-crazed sons. "We can bike over in less than 10 minutes and spare the air as we make Stanford Stadium our new 'Lair of the Bear!' "
Stanford's Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, the "Bradford Freeman Director of Football", was all smiles and said he understands that these are exceedingly difficult economic times and is fully supportive of the Department's difficult decision...at this time. He voiced enthusiastic support for the premium double-header format "At Stanford University, we love football, we are passionate about the game of football. We work! It is a privilege to represent this university and having the University of California play at our house certainly isn't going to change that one bit. We figure, the more football at Stanford Stadium, the better!"
New Cal offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig expressed some concern with the Bears' diminished ability to take advantage of their team speed, the on-field velocity so effectively showcased by Memorial Stadium's synthetic turf (Momentum Turf™) "I was not in favor of the move because we have been preparing to roll out an enhanced version of the spread offense and the Stanford Stadium playing surface is obviously much slower than ours, based on our extensive review of archival game footage of the Stanford secondary in the early-80s.
Bob Bowlsby "The Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics" was confident that the new arrangement would be mutually beneficial to the two schools during a period of prolonged economic uncertainty and welcomed the philanthropic opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with the University of California during its time of dire need. "Stanford went through a difficult time following the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 and we fully comprehend Cal's urgent need to retrofit and upgrade Memorial Stadium. We are pretty sure they would do the same for us if the situations were reversed."
Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford was not available for comment Wednesday, but sources within the Cal Football program report that Tedford was strongly in favor of playing the games at San Francisco's long-vacant Kezar Stadium, the one-time home of the Forty-Niners and does not relish seeing his team suit up in a stadium with "red seats".
Reached for comment, former Cal basketball star and frequent sideline supporter Jason Kidd said "I believe the Memorial Stadium renovation project is going to turn Cal Football around 360 degrees!"
The Bears will make one final appearance at the old Memorial Stadium - an April 18 scrimmage that begins at 12 noon and is part of the campus-wide "Cal Day" celebration.
2009 California/Stanford Combined Football Schedule
Sept. 5 Cal hosts Maryland, Stanford at WSU [no conflict]
Sept. 12 Cal hosts Eastern Washington, Stanford at Wake Forest [no conflict]
Sept. 19 Cal at Minnesota, Stanford hosts San Jose State [no conflict]
Sept. 26 Cal at Oregon, Stanford hosts Washington [no conflict]
Oct. 3 Cal hosts USC, Stanford hosts UCLA [Premium double-header with Cal-USC game at 12:30 p.m. (HSN) and Stanford-UCLA at 5:00 p.m. (no TV)]
Oct. 10 Cal - bye week, Stanford at OSU [no conflict]
Oct. 17 Cal at UCLA, Stanford at Arizona [no conflict]
Oct. 24 Cal hosts Washington State, Stanford hosts Arizona State [Premium double-header with Cal-WSU at 12:30 p.m. (USA), Stanford-ASU at 5:00 p.m. (Comcast)]
Oct. 31 Cal at Arizona State, Stanford - bye week [no conflict]
Nov. 7 Cal hosts Oregon State, Stanford hosts Oregon [Premium double-header with Cal-OSU at 12:30 p.m. (CMT), Stanford-Oregon at 5:00 p.m. (ESPN-Classic) ]
Nov. 14 Cal hosts Arizona, Stanford at USC [no conflict]
Nov. 21 Stanford-Cal Big Game (Stanford is "home team") [no conflict]
Nov. 28 Cal - bye week, Stanford hosts Notre Dame [no conflict]
Dec. 5 Cal at Washington [no conflict]
2010 California/Stanford Combined Football Schedule (Cal still needs need one game and may play it against San Jose State on Nov. 20.)
Sept. 4 - Cal hosts Louisiana Tech, Stanford was hosting San Jose State, will now be played at Spartan Stadium) [no conflict]
Sept. 11 - Cal hosts Colorado, Stanford hosts Wake Forest [Premium double-header with Stanford-Wake at 3:30 p.m [FSN-Appalachia], Cal-UCLA at 8:00 p.m. (ESPN4) ]
Sept. 25 - Cal hosts Washington, Stanford at Notre Dame [no conflict]
Oct. 2 - Cal at Arizona, Stanford at Oregon [no conflict]
Oct. 9 - Cal hosts UCLA, Stanford hosts USC [Premium double-header with Stanford-USC (Versus) at 12:30 p.m., Cal-UCLA at 5:00 p.m. (TLC)]
Oct. 16 - Cal at USC, Stanford at UCLA [no conflict]
Oct. 23 - Cal hosts Arizona State, Stanford hosts Washington State (Homecoming) [Premium double-header with Stanford-WSU at 12:30 p.m. (ESPN5), Cal-ASU at 5:00 p.m.]
Oct. 30 - Cal at Oregon State, Stanford at Washington [no conflict] [Date being entertained for a Elton John/Billy Joel concert]
Nov. 6 - Cal at Washington State, Stanford hosts Arizona [no conflict]
Nov. 13 - Cal hosts Oregon, Stanford at Arizona State [no conflict]
Nov. 20 Cal - Bye week, Stanford hosts Oregon State [no conflict]
Dec. 4 - Big Game (Cal is the "home team") [no conflict]
According to a representative of Stanford Athletics, the 2011 season schedule will be determined at a later date. No game times or other television broadcast arrangements have been decided.
Season tickets for California's 2009 campaign that features "home" games at Stanford Stadium against Maryland, USC and Oregon State, among others, are now on sale. To order, visit the Tickets Link at CalBares.com or call 1-976-GO BARES.
All questions regarding the revised questions should be directed to Mike Hovey, Deputy Director of Media Relations, Bay Area Football Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org
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