UCLA and USC clash every year for the right to ring a victory bell. Cal and Stanford wage war over which school gets to wield an axe for an entire year. For Catherine Stolitzka, pride seemed to be all that hung in the balance during last year’s gridiron showdown between UCLA and Cal. Stolitzka, a third-year biology student and member of UCLA’s rowing team, witnessed UCLA’s blowout loss with members of Cal’s men’s rowing team while visiting a friend’s house in Berkeley. Before kickoff, the Bay Area native boasted about how her then-No. 25 Bruins would demolish her hosts’ Golden Bears. By the end of a 43-17 beatdown at the hands of Cal, however, “Berkeley” chants rained down on her as she lost possession of a UCLA shirt, taken by her friend as a trophy, for the next four months.
Stolitzka and her friends brought an energy level to the UC rivalry calling back to the three-foot stacks of coffee cups that Alan Chen remembers noticing on game days near a downtown Starbucks close to the Berkeley campus. Yet Chen, a graduate student in environmental health sciences, recalls little athletic fanfare during his undergraduate years at Berkeley, much less enthusiasm for a UC rivalry, from 2005 to 2009.
Little can be concluded about the state of a UCLA-Cal rivalry when looking at attendance numbers over the past few years. Last year’s UCLA-Cal game actually saw Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium reach 91 percent capacity for a homecoming game, compared to a yearlong average capacity of 88 percent. In 2011, however, UCLA’s own homecoming game against Cal drew a 55,604-person crowd that undercut the 56,645 Rose Bowl average for the year. UCLA averaged 68,481 attendees in 2012, or 74 percent capacity, for its off-campus, 92,542-seat Rose Bowl. That number jumped up to 90 percent capacity when hosting USC.
Some UCLA players themselves do not put much extra stock in a matchup between teams separated by more than 300 miles. Though redshirt senior wide receiver Shaquelle Evans told ESPN Radio about how he wants to “embarrass” USC this November, sophomore wide receivers Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller had little to say about Cal.
Payton, who once committed as a recruit to Berkeley, maintains ties to some Cal players. He told beat writers earlier this week that he would text his good friend Bryce Treggs, a Cal wide receiver, about the Golden Bear potentially playing cornerback. Meanwhile, Fuller maintained that revenge for last year’s loss in the the intra-UC contest added little meaning to Saturday’s game.
Wilson Lee, a fourth-year political science student, believes that fans could get more into the idea of the rivalry if the players performed like a rivalry existed, complete with an extra visual layer of physicality and intensity. Lee said the only confrontational play he can remember from a UCLA-Cal contest came in the form of a late, post-sack body slam a Bruin once put on a Cal quarterback.
There was a time when commands of physicality against Cal served as a tradition in Westwood, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1972, Elvin Drake, a track coach and for whom UCLA’s on-campus track and soccer stadium is named, delivered a speech to the football team that included a request to “line up and whip the man across from you,” in reference to a game against Cal. Drake would deliver the same speech to UCLA each year until his death in 1988. The Bruins did not lose to the Golden Bears for the 17 straight seasons that Drake carried out the tradition.
UCLA’s 41-18 record against Cal through the 1980s would have put a smile on Drake’s face, but the now 80-year-old UC series has swung in Berkeley’s favor as of late. The Bruins have dropped 14 of the last 23 meetings with the Golden Bears. Mora said that he and his team learned much from last year’s loss, one which he described in a way familiar to UCLA lore.
“They beat our tails all over that field. That was players, coaches, everybody that went up there. … They whooped us every which way they could whoop us.”