Has it really been about five years since I trudged up to Memorial Stadium in Berkeley for a Cal football game? Have I given up the notion that my Golden Bears will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1st one of these years, while I am still alive? We have not been to the Rose Bowl since January 1, 1959. We played the heavily favored Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big 10 and lost 38 to 12. But we were the 16th ranked team in the country. Joe Kapp was the star QB for the Bears. He later became the Head Coach.
Believe it or not, I was in Pasadena on that fateful day in 1959. Our family was visiting relatives who lived within earshot of the Rose Bowl. I could hear the PA announcer and the cheers of the crowd from their front yard. We were celebrating the great Japanese tradition of Shogatsu at a home in Pasadena. We attended the Rose Parade earlier that day as well. Perhaps I knew I would one day be a Cal Bear, but I had no idea we would never return to play on January 1st!
I was just thinking about how proud my parents must have been, with their oldest son going to college. I remember they came up for “parents weekend” so we walked the campus, went to the football game, then had dinner at Spenger’s. Another time, they came up to visit, so we ate at the infamous Larry Blake’s Rathskeller on Telegraph Avenue. My how things have changed!
With college football becoming a big money game now for most big schools, I doubt we will ever make it back, at least under the current rules and qualification system. For one, Cal learned the hard way, not to cheat their way to a championship, though other schools tend to play fast and loose with the rules. In addition, the academic side of the University will not allow for below average admission for football players. Nor will they give football players and other student athletes any slack on academic progress and performance. Other schools, whose names I won’t mention, tend to make their own rules, but never seem to get caught.
But on this lovely Saturday, I am meeting my buddy Webb, and going to the Cal Arizona Wildcats football game. When I was an undergrad here, I never missed a game. Now, Cal football seems to have lost its charm, as we are not competitive any longer.
We will start the day by having lunch at the famous Faculty Club on campus. Then, we will stagger our way up to Strawberry Canyon where Memorial Stadium sits on a giant fault. Speaking of faults, it may not have been the best idea to remodel the old stadium. Stadium debt absorbs 20% of the athletic budget, or roughly $18 million of the $89 million budget. The principal will not begin the paydown until 2032, when yearly payments rise to $26 million. In 2053, there will be a lump sum due of $82 million.
Ironically, the coach with the best winning percentage is Jeff Tedford, who record was 82-57, with the most wins and bowl victories of any Cal coach. He is now serving his second term as coach of our local Fresno state Bulldogs, his alma mater. But, I digress.
Will we have a decent team this year? We emerge relatively unscathed, but battered and beaten by a trip to South Bend, Indiana last week to play the Golden Homers? Will we ever recruit another 4- or 5-star athlete? Will we ever have a first team All American again? I cannot even remember who the last one was, either Cam Jordan (Saints), Keenan Allen (Chargers) or Aaron Rodgers (Packers)??
We almost beat Notre Shame!!! I would imagine their athletic department budget is about triple the size of ours. But, I can say they rarely win any Nobel prizes or Pulitzers.
Today’s game is against the Arizona Wildcats. Go Bears!
But I love my Golden Bears, even though we will not get to Pasadena on January 1 in my lifetime!!!