When Cal played the first Big Game against Stanford in 1892, it drew a record crowd of 15,000 fans to a field in San Francisco. In the excitement, both teams forgot to bring a football, and someone had to be sent downtown in a carriage to buy one. The final outcome: Stanford 14, Cal 10.
Cal’s fortunes improved when Andy Smith became the football coach. His unbeaten “Wonder Teams” won four Pacific Coast Conference titles between 1920 and 1923. These successes generated so much interest that the football team needed a new home — one that could hold as many as 80,000 fans — launching a statewide campaign to raise $1 million to build Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1923.
The Golden Bears won a national championship in football under coach Leonard “Stub” Allison in 1937; and during Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf’s 10 years as coach, they won three conference championships and went to the Rose Bowl three straight years. In 1982, “The Play” capped a wild, victorious finish to the Big Game. Thirty years later, in 2012, a revitalized Memorial Stadium was rededicated.
Private giving provides critical support for Cal’s athletic achievements. The 2012 reopening of the renovated Memorial Stadium brought significant enhancements including improved fan seating and public spaces, seismic upgrades, the state-of-the-art Peter E. Haas Press Box, and restored western views through the facade’s grand arches. Outside of the stadium, a scenic new space, the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza, was named in honor of the couple’s generosity to Cal Athletics. Other sports facilities — including aquatics, rugby and crew — have benefitted greatly from donor support with significant gifts from the Cronk, Hellman, Fisher, Rogers, Spieker, and Witter families.
With 30 varsity intercollegiate sports on campus, honors for Cal athletes abound. The Golden Bears have claimed 97 national team titles. On sport’s biggest stage, the Olympics, current and former Golden Bears have earned 207 medals, including 117 gold medals, through the 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro.
Win or lose, the tradition of the student-athlete has guided generations of Golden Bears to honor the balance between mind and body, to revere discipline and teamwork, and to strive for excellence in all they do.