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Archive for June, 2010

It’s official: Pac-12 here we come!

Well, ironically, the “Pac-12” part isn’t official, no new name has been officially chosen, but the fact that the conference will have 12 teams, the traditional 10 plus Colorado (announced last week) and Utah (announced officially today), is official.

Other than that, we don’t know a whole lot yet.

One thing we do know is that the conference HAS NOT decided on how to split the divisions. This is a bit of a surprise considering the information that had Colorado AD indicating they had been promised that they’d be part of the Pac-12 South with the AZ and southern Cal schools. However, from what I’m reading, people have been over-stating the confidence of that fact.

I suspect this is a bit of the telephone game. Larry Scott indicated to the Colorado AD something like “he’ll push for it” or “it’s the most likely case” and the Colorado AD told his contacts that “it’s what I wanted and they are agreeable” and that got morphed into “Colorado was guaranteed it”. Or some similar scenario. Since there’s no official quote from either the Colorado AD or Scott, it’s hard to take those indications as gospel.

We also don’t know for sure there will be a conference championship game (although there will be) or whether the Pac-10 will setup their own TV network (I’d say it’s got a 70% likelihood). Additionally we don’t know if there will be 8 or 9 conference games. We also don’t know what year Colorado will be joining, although it’ll either be 2011 or 2012.

What we do know is that Utah will join in 2011, and that indicates that it’s likely that there will be an attempt to have Colorado come at the same time, however the Big-12 leaving early penalty might impact the decision away from what the Pac-12 would like.

I think I’ve said my peace on what I think is best for the conference, and if Cal can get in the South, my mind will rest easy with what has happened, even if I’m not a big proponent of it. We’ve gained two quality programs and although I’m no big fan of it, the benefits of a conference championship game are hard to ignore. However, if we end up in the North, I’ll be grumbling about it for a long time to come.

More, including possible extended grumbling, to come… (I’m sure)

Worst case scenarios

Well, it appears my worst fears have come to pass. Texas has declined the offer to join the Pac-10, thereby killing any chance of any other major Big-12 team from heading our way either. That leaves 3 likely possibilities:

  1. Pac-11: The “default” answer at this point is that nothing else happens, leaving the Pac-10 with 11 teams now that Colorado has officially joined.
  2. Pac-12 and Cal in South: The Pac-12 picks up one other team, everyone is assuming it’ll be Utah, but there are some other possibilities that could be pursued, particularly if Utah turns us down. In either case, the assumption is that the conference will be split north/south and Cal and Stanford/the new two with Colorado are the border teams. For this scenario, we’ll assume Cal and Stanford end up in the South and the new two end up in the North.
  3. Pac-12 and Cal in the North: Same as above but Cal and Stanford end up in the North and the new two end up in the South.

In my opinion, all three of these are a downgrade over what the conference has now, and only option #3 is anything but a disaster.

For what it is worth, both Denver and Salt Lake are at higher latitudes than Cal and Stanford, although they’re admittedly close (Berkeley is just south of latitude 38, Stanford is just north of lat 37 and Denver and SLC are north of 39 and 40 degrees respectively. To define close, by comparison Portland, Oregon is at 45 and LA is at 34). But as we all implicitly know, latitudes are likely to be one of the last things to decide the split up.

Here’s what I see as the “storyline”. When the teams met for their annual conference, the question of expansion came up and both the Pac-16 and Pac-12 were discussed. In the end both were approved. I’m absolutely confident that both Cal and Stanford were very clear that for the Pac-12 situation that they wanted to be in the South with USC and UCLA. The only question is whether Larry Scott talked them out of it. His point of course would be that we’d be far more likely to attract new teams if we paired them with USC and UCLA.

What’s the answer to whether Larry Scott talked them out of it? Nobody knows for sure, but the Colorado fans seem to think that they’d be paired with USC and UCLA. However, that could easily just be their hopes influencing their thoughts as much as any real info.

It also could be that no promises were made to Colorado, meaning they’d be put in the North if possible, but Larry Scott is keeping the USC/UCLA pairing in his back pocket for negotiations with Utah or whichever team makes team number 12. It might be that Colorado wasn’t insistent, but the next team will be.

So it’s very possible that the answer isn’t even known by insiders like Scott.

In either case, the Pac-11 stinks, stinks, stinks like replacing a toilet with a failed wax seal. Colorado by itself just isn’t worth the lost symmetry and all that made the Pac-10 awesome and we don’t gain anything meaningful like a conference championship game or a notably easier schedule. While the Pac-12 offers something more, a conference championship game and not having to play our difficult full round-robin, being paired with the north will stink worse than the Pac-11.

The north will get less respect and it’ll actually be the more difficult division, particularly if the UW rebound continues apace and UCLA can’t put it together. Plus we’ll lose out on our yearly games versus USC and UCLA. Sure the other teams don’t care about that as much as we do, but there’s no other way to look at it than Cal and Stanford are getting the shortest straw of the group.

Put Cal in the south and it’s closer to an equal situation as the current setup. Obviously we gain a fair amount in the conference championship game and the TV revenue upsides, but I like the round-robin myself. There’s ups and downs to either equation.

But think about this: What’s clear is that neither the north nor the south really want these two new teams. They both want Cal and Stanford. What does it mean when nobody wants the two teams that are supposedly brought in to improve the conference? Doesn’t that say something about whether this is inherently a good deal?

In any case, let’s just hope that scenario #3 works out because everything else is a significant downgrade from where I sit.

Big News!

If you think the big news on Thursday June 10th, 2010 is that USC is getting a two-year post-season ban and losing 20 30 scholarships over a yet unknown period of 3 years, you are absolutely, moronically wrong (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

The Big News is that Colorado has officially joined the Pac-10.

Thirty years from now, the USC news will be a footnote, the Pac-10 expansion will be a key moment in the conference.

People have asked what I think about the “Pac-16” (or I’ve heard it referred to as the SAT (surf and turf) conference) and I haven’t completed a post on the subject because I can’t make up my mind. But here’s what I am confident of, I have no interest in the Pac-12 with Colorado and Utah. That scenario loses all that is special about the Pac-10 with its round-robin and natural rivalries without gaining enough in return. So I guess at this point, I just became a proponent of the Pac-16 since the only alternative is either the Pac-12 or even worse, the Pac-11, now that the Colorado announcement is official.

As for the Pac-16, I like the fact that we’re looking at a Pac-8 division in the conference. That’ll work out nicely. I like the fact that the conference championship game will help us in publicity as a conference. I also like the fact that we’ll get access to the Big-12 bowl lineup which is far better than the Pac-10.

However, there are some downsides. We end up losing some bowl slots in bowls that formerly had both a Pac-10 and Big-12 alignment. They’re not going to keep two slots, so the combined conference will lose a spot. If it was only one bowl, but it’s 2 1/2: Alamo, Holiday, and Sun every other year. Add that to the fact that there’s going to be a whole lot of extra competition for those bowl slots and it’s at least a bit worrisome that perhaps the added bowls won’t be enough to improve the situation for the existing Pac-10 teams. I’d want to see the bowls be forced to pick fairly based on team success and not just “pick in order”, which gets very complicated with a two division conference.

I’m also VERY against conference games against the other half that COUNT (and I can’t emphasize this enough) for who is the division champion. I’d love to play Texas every few years, but I most definitely don’t like the idea that the year that we play Texas in Texas ends up being the year we’d otherwise win the Pac-8 division except for that loss sinking us. The same goes for Oklahoma. No, it better be just the 7 games in the division that determine the division winner. I hate, hate, HATE how the current 12 team conferences do it and it’ll be even worse with 8 teams because at most there will only be 2 out-of-division conference games and there’s just no way to “balance” those games so that it doesn’t unduly affect the division standings.

So, from where I sit, if we either only play 7 conference games or if we play 8 or 9 but only the 7 within the division count for the division standings and our new bowl alignments are significantly better than our current alignments (so much so that even though we’ve got these extra teams and lost a few spots, we’re in better shape), then I’d be happy if the Pac-16 came to pass.

Particularly now that the deed is done with Colorado and expansion is officially underway.

Minor news

Word on the street is that USC has been hit with a two-year bowl ban, starting in 2010 and 20 lost scholarships over a yet undisclosed period of years (likely either 2 or 4) Update on 6/11 at noon: when the official report came out yesterday afternoon it turns out it was 30 over 3 years, which means no more than 15 new signees each year and no more than 75 total for the next 3 years (end update). It’ll also have to vacate its wins in 2004.

Some people think this is big news, but other than the Bears having a slightly better shot at winning the Pac-10 and going to the Rose Bowl the next couple years, I don’t think it means much. It’s not enough to effect USC’s program overall. The recruits who have yet to commit are very unlikely to be effected. Plus, particularly if the 20 30 scholarships are over 4 3 years, it’s not going to prevent USC from getting many recruits. Over 2 years may have a larger effect.

So from where I sit, USC will be back to it’s dominant position in two three years time, unless Kiffen turns out to be a bust (which I don’t think he will).

Top-10 favorite games

Continuing on from the depressing Bottom-10 worst games, I give you the Top-10 favorite games. Let’s be clear about what this list is. It’s MY favorite games. It’s not the best games the Bears played. It’s not the most important victories. It’s the games that I carry close to my heart and was very thankful to be a part of (similar to how the Bottom-10 are the ones that pain me the most, which were not necessarily the games that were the worst for the program).

You’ll notice that all of the games were games I was in attendance for. That’s because no game, no matter how special, can rank well against the emotions that go along with being there in person. Luckily I’ve been in attendance for just about every meaningful game during the Tedford era (the 2003 USC game and the 2003 Insight Bowl being the most notable exceptions, both missed because of a recently born son). So without much further adieu, here’s the list:

#10 – 2008 ASU game

Something about ASU always gets under my skin. Maybe it was their constant over ranking in the last decade. Maybe it was the personalities of their key players and coaches. Even still, the 2008 edition particularly got under my skin, what with their undeserved 2007 esteem (that was one of the most schedule aided over-ranked teams in history), Carpenter’s whiny yet cocky attitude and Erickson’s smugness. Add in their completely undeserved victory over the Bears in 2007 and I couldn’t have disliked them more. So, despite them being 2-2 when they headed to Berkeley in the fall of 2008, I was more than ready to watch ASU take a soul-crushing loss at the hands of the Bears. And boy did the Bears deliver. Of course Follett’s sack of Carpenter was a high point, but the Bears gave me a warm feeling inside all afternoon with their dominating play.

#9 – 2006 UW game

The 2006 Washington game is a cautionary tale to anyone who is considering missing an “unimportant” game. The Bears were supposed to cruise to victory that day. Instead the crowd in Strawberry Canyon were treated to an epic thriller. The Bears trailed for most of the day but Marshawn was unwilling to let the Bears lose. Between his halfback pass play that was busted up and turned into a cross field romp down to the 1 yard line and the final drive of regulation that put the Bears in front, he was unstoppable. The 2-point conversion to make that touchdown a 7 point lead and the ensuing Hail Mary that tied the game turned what was already an exciting game into an overtime thriller. Toss in Bishop’s interception that ended the game in overtime (after another Marshawn TD) where he was unsatisfied with taking a knee and tried to run it back the length of the field for a touchdown, followed by Marshawn jumping in the equipment cart to go pick up Bishop who ran out of gas before he got to the endzone and you’ve got one of the most enjoyable and memorable games in Berkeley.

#8 – 2005 Las Vegas Bowl

After such a disappointing 2nd half of the season in 2005, it was so nice to see the Bears finish of the season on a high note. The Big Game of course got it started in the final game of the season, but had the Bears lost to BYU in LV, I suspect the 2005 Big Game would have an emotional asterisks attached to it. Add in that it was the first bowl game I attended in person, and it’ll always hold a special place in my memory. That I had a great vacation on the back end of the game visit my Uncle’s desert ranch in Arizona after the game only makes the game that much more memorable. Not to overlook the game, Marshawn was in as fine form as he was in the UW game the following year and DeSean had his coming out party gaining him plenty of national attention that he took with him into his banner year in 2006. What a great game!

#7 – 2006 Oregon game

This day could properly be titled “The Day Memorial Came To Life”. Up until then, Memorial was a enjoyable place to watch a game, but it wasn’t feared by most opponents. Tedford had once or twice admitted he was a bit jealous of the home field advantage teams like Oregon (his old stomping grounds) and USC had, so he challenged us fans to bring the vocal heat that Saturday evening. Boy did we and boy did Oregon find themselves surprised by it. Ever since then, Memorial has been a place that opponents had to prepare for. Again, not to overlook the game itself, the interception on the first play of the game, the resulting TD on a classic Tedford TE slide out, the DeSean punt return for a touchdown, the hard hits on Dixon… another game with more great memories on the field. But really what sticks out in this one was it was the day us Bear fans realized there could be a 12th man in Berkeley. I remember thinking to myself, “This can’t be good for my young children’s eardrums and I’m loving every moment of it.”

#6 – 2006 Holiday Bowl

Obviously this is Cal’s biggest achievement as far as bowl games go and it was a great game. While TV viewers likely remember the end of game mutiny by Levy, for those there that was a non-incident. What was clear was watching a Cal team that hit harder, ran faster and made quick work of Texas A&M’s 300 lbs. running back who was supposed to be something special. All I saw was how hard 300 lbs. can fall. Also interesting is that despite going to only one of the three bowl games in San Diego, I picked the one the Bears actually won. Minus that aside, it was really the pinnacle of the Bears success. Everything since has been a bit more humble.

#5 – 2009 Big Game

The best games are the games that you REALLY want the Bears to win but fear the Bears won’t have what it takes. The top-5 with the exception of the 2002 Big Game fit that criteria. I was among the more optimistic about the Bears chances in Palo Alto last fall but I was enough of a realist to know that predicting a win was trouble. Then to watch the Bears quickly go down 0-14, all of our worst fears had come true. But how the rest of the 50 minutes of that game played out, oh what a sweet comeback. Add to it the end of game interception that sent me into a level of cheering that I doubt has ever been matched in my lifetime of Cal fandom. I think it was the first moment my kids realized that their father was just a little bit crazy.

#4 – 2000 UCLA game

While I have been a Bear fan my whole life, raised the son of an alum in Oakland, I didn’t go to my first game until I was out of college and got season tickets for myself. That was 1999. It was the depth of the Holmoe era. A new non-donor season ticket holder got tickets in section E, albeit in row 60. The bleachers were not packed and one could spread out a bit. The first two games I attended in 1999 were actually wins (one thing Holmoe did that kept him around longer than he otherwise would have been was he won a fair number of games at home to keep the home crowd happy), but by the time mid-2000 and UCLA came to town, any delusions of grandeur I had as a season ticket holder were long since erased. The Bears were 1-4 when UCLA came to town with a 4-1 record. We were going to get crushed and everyone knew it. But the Bears put up what was perhaps their best performance of the Holmoe era. While the details of the game escape me what I remember most was overtime. Overtime rules were relatively new to college football so there was a novelty there, but in addition the half full stadium created an environment that likely will never be seen again. As overtime started the ENTIRE fanbase slid out of their seats and down into the end of the stadium where the first overtime was held. All of us were on one end of the stadium. For the second overtime everyone slid down to the other end and then they came back again for the third overtime to the other side. In addition to getting in some extra walking in, it also was a special environment. We as fans were in this together. Seat assignments meant nothing. And we were rewarded for being a part of it with a thrilling triple overtime victory.

#3 – 2007 Tennessee game

There’s been no game in the last 10 years that had the magical and unique environment that existed on September 1st, 2007. It was opening day of what looked to be a promising season, the treesitters were in full force in the grove, the Cal game was nationally televised and we were playing the most prominent non-conference opponent of the Tedford era. The game could have crushed our souls, but instead we were treated to a wonderful performance by our Bears. Who can forget the Follett forced fumble on UT’s first drive and the ensuing scoop and run for a TD by Williams? Who can forget that punt return by DeSean, what was unquestionably his best punt return of his career? Remember Jahvid running stride for stride with him into the endzone? The Bears played a great one that day and it will not be forgotten.

#2 – 2002 Big Game

This is the only game in the top-5 that the Bears were “expected” to win. But nothing about the Big Game, particularly in those days, that could be called “expected”. The Bears had been favored other times in the 7 year losing streak. It was far too close to games like the 1990 game from the Bottom-10 to be anything but nervous. For those of you who are relatively new to the Cal Bear football scene, the games of the last decade have been some of the most predictable Big Games in the history of the series. 2007 to 2009 are more close to how things have gone over the history. ’75, ’82, ’86, ’90, ’91, that’s the norm. Add in the reality that for all the years from when Snyder left until Tedford arrived, the only way Bear fans could hope for success was to pray for a Big Game win. God knew that there was no hope of winning seasons or much less bowl games, the Big Game was all we had to rest our hopes on. So despite the rebound during the rest of the season, nothing about what happened in 2002 would be complete until the losing streak to Stanford had been ended. All of that is a long way of saying there’s only one word to describe the resulting beat down: cathartic. It to this day marks the only time I’ve run onto the field after a game and I intend to save my next time for a similarly momentous occasion.

#1 – 2007 Oregon game

I hemmed and hawed over whether this belonged above or below the 2002 Big Game. But in the end it has three qualities that make it unique and thus put it over the top: It was a road game, I was working it as a reporter, and the teams were very highly ranked. For those who don’t know/remember, I ended up working this game as a mere coincidence. After working the 2006 season I had been relegated to analysis articles in 2007. Rivals wasn’t sending reporters to away games at that point. But I had an opportunity to go to the game with my brother and his friend Angel but I needed to get a ticket. Since I could do it on the cheap I called AW and asked him if he’d like me to work it for free, thus getting me into the game, and that’s how I ended up at the biggest road win of the Tedford era. The Bears were in top form that day and it was REALLY hard to keep my emotions in check in the pressbox where anything more than a tortured smile was not allowed. But what a game it was and I looked like an epileptic trying to keep my reflexive desires to jump up and down in check. Of course the highlight of this game was the Oregon fumble at the goal line and the ensuing long review, but there was so much more. It was DeSean’s best day of his career with a number of key grabs and one juke and run that left Oregon’s corner searching for his shoes while DeSean celebrated in the endzone. Longshore was at his best and Forsett gave a strong effort as well. It was something very special to be a part of, so special that it was the motivation for my proposals to to work road games for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. More than anything this game defined my path as a sports reporter and for that I’m truly grateful for how the Bears played that day. But even ignoring that, it was something special to be a part of and I’m thankful that I was there to witness it. The day ended with trying to interview Tedford and the team on the field while the small but loud Cal contingent partied in the stands. I knew the audio was going to suck and I probably wasn’t going to get many good quotes from being unable to transcribe the tape, but I didn’t care, let them cheer. It was probably the greatest moment of their Cal fandom for most of them too.

(Honorable mentions: 2008 Emerald Bowl: Would have made the cut if I didn’t have the flu, might have even still made the cut if I wasn’t working the game with the flu. 2005 Big Game: Great highs, Steve Levy at his peak, last Big Game with my brother at Stanford stadium, but a little too much like shooting fish in a barrel in retrospect, 2005 WSU game: A nail biter the Bears really needed to win on cold October night and I never felt more like a family with my fellow fans as that night, but in the end it was more relief that euphoria, keeping it off the list. 2008 Oregon game: Probably the closest of the honorable mentions to making the cut, I never had so much fun in the rain as the “standing water bowl”, but somehow 2008 ASU ranks a little higher. 2009 ASU game: Has the virtue of being the only game I was on the field for the game winning play and a great trip overall, but doesn’t cut it in the end for similar reasons to the 2005 WSU game.)

Comment re-enabled

Kat brought it to my attention that the comments had been effectively turned off. One had to have an account to comment and since we give readers no way to create an account, nobody but Jason or I could comment.

This happened to my other blog which also uses the wordpress software. When it happened there, I assumed I had made some mistake and accidentally enabled that “feature”. Now that it has happened on this blog I’m convinced that what happened is that some wordpress upgrade reset some portion of the settings and that was the result.

The worst part is that Jason and I were blind to it since we’re always logged in as users so that we can write posts. The result is that I’ve been fat, dumb and happy yet wondering why nobody has commented in the last couple months.

In any case, comments are now re-enabled. Enjoy!

Bottom-10 personally soul-crushing games

Over at CGB they’ve been doing some game lists, the most recent being ranking the Big Games of the decade. I’ve always been one to think that emulating a good idea is nothing to be ashamed of so I decided to make a couple lists myself. I wanted to put a personal touch on it, so I’m picking games that mean a lot to me. The first one, this one, will be the games that when I think about them I want to cry the most. The next post will be the games that carry a special place in my heart.

So, to get the bad out of the way, I give you my Bottom-10 personally most soul-crushing games:

#10 – 2004 Holiday Bowl

There are only two moments that are candidates for the high point in modern Cal football. One was when Cal was ranked #2 mid-season in 2007. The other was just before the 2004 Holiday Bowl started. I was slated to go to the game with my brother and uncle, but my wife was due with our 2nd baby in early January (if I’m remembering correctly the due date was January 7th). At my wife’s weekly prenatal checkup the week before the game, I waited with anticipation to hear the answer the question “how soon?” and found my hopes of going to the game crushed with the answer “any day now”. I’ve since learned that the medical profession’s ability to predict a due date ranks second only to the weather forecast in accuracy. In the end, even though Andrew wasn’t born until January 17th, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t there as this game would be much higher on my list if I had been forced to watch it in person. Nevertheless, deep in my subconscious, the question “where is the secondary?” continues to rattle in my brain to this day.

#9 – 2005 UCLA game

If there was an upside to the 2005 UCLA game it was that I was ahead of the curve in picking up Jones-Drew in my NFL fantasy league when he turned pro, but watching that game on TV and seeing the defense and special teams abused over and over by him makes that upside of little comfort. It took another 4 years for it to happen, but this was the day Alamar, the long loathed special teams coach, officially went on the hot seat. To add injury to insult, if my memory serves, this is still the largest 4th quarter lead blown (12 points) by Tedford’s Bears.

#8 – 2001 Arizona game

I know for those of you who’ve ramped up your fandom after Tedford’s arrival, this game probably seems like a random pick. But for those who were there, this was a disastrous loss. Arizona shared the bottom of the Pac-10 with the Bears on that fateful day, both being win-less in conference play. The fan base in those days had much lower expectations and the Bears being able to keep out of the cellar, while not exactly comforting, was at least something to build on. Win that one, pull off a miracle against Stanford and win at the 9-11 delayed game at Rutgers and the Bears could turn 0-7 into a then-respectable 3-8. Instead the Bears got owned that day with Holmoe showing off his patented “Let’s run it into the middle of the line on 3rd and 8. They couldn’t expect us to do that AGAIN!?! could they?” strategy. Somewhere mid-third quarter when it was clear that any halftime adjustments would not be saving the day, I completely lost it. I stood up and yelled out, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE!” Then I walked out of the stadium. It remains the only time I’ve left a game early.

#7 – 2009 USC game

What can one really say about this one? We all remember all too well what happened. This was co-blogger Jason’s turn to walk out of the action and I think that speaks as much about the game as my walking out of the 2001 Arizona game. What a dreadful game that was. I think what makes it worse is that our pre-game hopes, that USC was weak that year, turned out to be every bit as true as we had hoped. What we didn’t expect is that the Bears would play their worst game against USC since Gilbertson was head coach and lost 61-0 to USC. (Caveat: the Bears lost 55-14 to USC in 2001, but that game, while the score was worse, was less of a blowout in principle IMHO.)

#6 – 2000 Big Game

All of the last 3 of Holmoe’s Big Games were a disappointment and I toyed with which of them would be the representative in the list. ’99 had the distinction of the being the game where all of the scoring came from one of our cornerbacks (one INT for a touchdown and one kickoff for a touchdown), but in the end 2000 takes the cake because it went to overtime. After so many years of weak performances the Bears managed to get to overtime in the only overtime Big Game in history (there are number of ties in the series from the days before overtime). Sadly overtime was more reminiscent of the previous Big Games than it was of the previous 60 minutes and the game was over before we knew it.

#5 – 2008 Maryland game

In the big picture, this game wasn’t a horrible loss, but when you’ve traveled across the country and you aren’t used to humid heat, a loss like that sticks with you. Of course the storyline was that the Bears didn’t wake up in time for the game with the 9 AM PDT kickoff, but for those who were there, the heat was the key. Whenever the cloud cover grew thicker or the wind blew a bit it made a noticeable difference in the game. In the end, why the Bears lost is irrelevant because it was a REALLY long way to go to watch them show up so flat and yet again re-affirm both the East Coast idea that the Bears are a joke and so is the Pac-10.

#4 – 2007 Big Game

It’s interesting that two of my top 10 are games immediately before the birth of one of my boys. In this case it was my youngest, who was due a mere 5 days after the game (he was also late – 12/14). But in this case, two things had me going to the game anyway: One, it was driving distance from the hospital so I’d be unlikely to miss the birth, but just the first couple hours of the ordeal. Two, none of my kids have ever missed a Big Game in their lives and I intend to keep it that way. (I even had plans for my brother to take the boys to the game if labor arrived shortly before the game.) In any case, everyone knows what happened. The team that had been in a free-fall, but one that in everyone’s mind had to come to an abrupt stop with suck a weak Stanford in their way. Instead we were treated to another poor effort albeit against a stronger than expected Cardinal. Just like the 2004 Holiday Bowl, the depression of this loss was only ended when I was able to welcome a new son in to the world shortly thereafter.

#3 – 2006 Arizona game

At the time the game was a bit disappointing, but in retrospect this game eats at me like almost no other game. At the time, win or lose that game all the Bears had to do to get to the Rose Bowl was beat USC. But if the Bears had beat Arizona, it turns out they wouldn’t have needed to beat USC to go to the Rose Bowl. What a terrible fate. What horrible officiating. What a bad break on the size of DeSean’s shoe. What a terrible trip by Hawkins at the 1 yard line. What bad play calling on those failed goal line conversions. What ill advised passes by Longshore in those interceptions. What an amazingly depressing game.

#2 – 1990 Big Game

I’ll admit it, before I went to college I was a bandwagon Cal fan. My Dad’s alum, but he wasn’t (and isn’t) that into football. So when the Bears were good, I’d pay attention, but when they weren’t, I didn’t much care. I didn’t listen to the miraculous 1986 Big Game and I missed a lot of heart breaking losses during those poor years of the 80’s. But the late 80’s and early 90’s were good years and I was watching the 1990 Big Game on TV (one of the few in those days that was on TV). I still can’t believe they lost that game. I mean, it was just unbelievable, Stanford touchdown with 12 seconds left -> 2 point conversion that failed (hurray!)-> fans rush field and resulting 15 yard penalty -> onside kick recovery -> roughing the passer call -> 40 yard field goal and a win for the Cardinal. WRETCH! I’ve never felt so sick in my life as that night.

#1 – 2007 Oregon State game

The top two share the same essential elements: Highly regarded team and last minute melt down. Poor Riley to have to be the one who made the mistake, to get tackled with no timeouts and 13 seconds left when in field goal range to tie the game. To make matters worse I had brought my friend who’s an OSU alum to the game (what could it hurt to let him watch his team get beat, right?) and the memory of him jumping up and down going nuts while the rest of us hung our heads will pain me forever. It makes it even worse to have seen the team fall so far after that.

Honorable mentions: the 2003 Utah game that got 2003 off to a bad start, the 2004 USC game that prevented a national title run, the 2002 Air Force game that ended the great start to the Tedford era, the 2001 Big Game that made it 7 losses in a row, the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl that made 2009 so mediocre, the 1999 Big Game that mostly consisted of Stanford keeping the ball out of Delta O’Neil’s hands, the 2006 Tennessee game that only missed the list because of how good the 7-game win streak that followed was, the 2006 USC game that officially ended Cal’s runs at the Rose Bowl, the 2009 Oregon game that made me regret making the trip, and the 2007 ASU game that made me hate Dennis Dickson and his robot-celebration for life.