Bay Area Battle: The Big Game featuring Cal and Stanford

November 20, 2015

Game days are just a little bit more intense when it’s Rivalry Week and, this week, the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University will play in the 118th annual Big Game at Stanford Stadium. Known as one of the greatest rivalries in college football and the oldest on the West Coast, Stanford currently leads the series with a 60-46-11 record. The rivalry is so big that the National Football League dropped its pursuit of a “The Big Game” trademark on the Super Bowl after facing opposition from both schools.

On Saturday, these academic powerhouses will play for gridiron pride, glory and…The Stanford Axe. First used by Stanford yell leaders in 1899, The Stanford Axe has become the symbolic trophy awarded to the winner of the Big Game each year (in the case of a tie, the Axe remains with the school that originally possessed it). The Stanford Axe actually made its first appearance at a baseball game between the California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal in San Francisco. The Axe was stolen after the baseball game by Berkeley students and, as a result of the chase that ensued through the streets of San Francisco by Stanford students and the San Francisco police department, the Axe’s handle was broken off to make it easier to transport across the Bay by ferry.

Berkeley retained possession of the Axe for 31 years, going so far as to hide it in a Berkeley bank vault only to be brought out in an armoured car for spring baseball and Big Game rallies. The Axe was finally stolen back in 1930 by twenty-one Stanford students (known to Stanford as the Immortal 21 and conversely known to UC Berkeley as the Immoral 21) in an elaborate heist at the Big Game rally involving blinding photography flashes, tear gas, and getaway cars. It wasn’t until 1933 that both universities decided to award the Axe to the annual winner of the Big Game.

Even then, this hasn’t stopped students and even the universities from peacefully coexisting in the Bay Area. Stanford supposedly asked Berkeley how tall the Campanile (perhaps better known as Sather Tower) was when it was building its own Hoover Tower on the Stanford campus and legend has it that Berkeley officials purposely gave Stanford incorrectly short measurements to make sure it would always be smaller than Berkeley’s tower.

Additional mischievous acts have since followed. In 1949, both schools relied on flying planes to drop leaflets on the other’s campus to describe how convincingly each would win the Big Game. More recent pranks include Stanford students dumping Cardinal-red Kool Aid in a fountain on Berkeley’s campus, Berkeley’s “Phoenix Five” stealing the Stanford tree mascot from the Stanford Bank Shack and Stanford pranksters reportedly releasing red mice in the Berkeley band room.

Rivalry history and pranks aside, both schools have each seen a lot of craziness on the football field as well. “The Play” from the Big Game of 1982 involving the Stanford band is still one of the most exciting endings in college football history and Stanford’s recent 63-13 victory in 2013 set a Big Game record for the largest margin of victory in the series. With both teams playing a winning brand of football this season, there’s no reason to think this year’s Big Game will be anything but exciting.

So, with all that said, who are you rooting for?

Interested in applying to UC Berkeley or Stanford? Check out profiles from students accepted to those schools for an inside look to see how they got in. Read essays, see scores, and get personal advice to give you a better idea of where you stand. 


Browse Successful Application Files


Accepted to Stanford, Princeton, UC Berkeley, UCLA

Happy to chat—accepted for Stanford '21 but attending as Stanford '22.

Accepted to Stanford, Yale, UPenn, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, USC, Notre Dame, UCLA, BC, Brandeis

A Cameron Impact Scholar, aspiring human rights lawyer, committed hiker, and proud tree.

Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Washington, UCSD, UC Davis, Cal Poly, UC Irvine

Bay Area Teen with Exclusive Advice about Applying to Stanford

Accepted to Stanford

A Questbridge Match and an aspiring engineer who plans to solve global issues using business, law, politics, and, of course, science.

New Posts

Winners of the AdmitSee 2020 College Scholarship
Winners of the AdmitSee 2020 College Scholarship
September 30, 2020

We are so excited to announce that for this year’s scholarship, we selected five scholarship winners to maximize the impact of our $5,000 college scholarship prize money....

Load More Posts