On Nov. 16, Cal Athletics Director Jim Knowlton announced that the annual Big Game between Stanford and University of California Berkeley would be postponed to Dec. 1 at 12 p.m. due to dangerous smoke levels from Camp Fire. The game was originally scheduled to occur on Nov. 17 at 4:30 p.m. at Berkeley. The rescheduled game will still take place at California Memorial Stadium.
The decision, made in consultation with the Pac-12 Conference, was based on advice from medical and environmental experts.
“Once we realized that air quality would likely not return to acceptable levels, we made the decision to postpone for the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, gameday staff, students, band and spirit groups, alumni and fans,” Knowlton wrote in a statement explaining the decision.
Shortly thereafter, Stanford Athletics Director Bernard Muir recognized those affected by the wildfires in an additional statement.
“The entire Stanford Athletics community recognizes this has been an extremely challenging time for so many people who have been affected by the wildfires, both in the Bay Area and throughout the state,” he wrote. “We are thankful to the University of California for collaborating with us on the logistical challenges.”
The Stanford football team was told to “stay inside and avoid strenuous activity,” according to Thomas Booker ’22, a defensive end for the Stanford Cardinal.
The rescheduling followed both Stanford and Berkeley’s decisions to cancel classes on Nov. 16 due to high air quality index (AQI) levels considered “very unhealthy” even for healthy individuals. San Jose State University, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University cancelled their classes that day as well.
Stanford’s decision to cancel classes immediately followed the circulation of a petition, signed by 500 students, calling for increased access to respiratory masks for students and/or the cancellation of classes on Nov. 16.
Students also supported the decision to postpone Big Game.
“I’m really glad that they made the decision to postpone the game,” said Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) President Shanta Katipamula ’19. “I think it rightly puts everyone’s health and safety first, and I’m glad they reached that decision.”
Charmayne Floyd ’19, chairwoman of the Stanford Axe Committee, expressed agreement with the decision as well.
“Safety has to be the number-one concern both for the football players and for the fans,” she said. “So while we’re disappointed we have to wait two more weeks to beat Cal, we’re happy that the universities are taking safety into concern.”
The Big Game’s postponement came alongside several other Stanford Athletics schedule changes. The NCAA women’s soccer tournament, originally slated to host second round matches at Stanford on the night of Nov. 16, moved the event from Cagan Stadium to the Salinas Sports Complex in Salinas, California. Meanwhile, men’s and women’s basketball weekend matches were cancelled outright, with no rescheduling planned. The men were scheduled to take on the Wofford Terriers on Nov. 16, and the women were slated to host Ohio State on Nov. 18.
Big Game traditions were impacted as well. The Axe Committee camps out in White Plaza every year during the week leading up to the Big Game and planned to do so for 121 hours this year to mark the 121st Big Game. The postponement, however, forced them to reschedule. According to Floyd, the camping was set to continue, but not necessarily for the full 121 hours.
“It’s likely going to be 28, because the announcement came 28 hours before Big Game was supposed to start,” she said.
Floyd also said that the Nov. 16 performance of Gaieties and the subsequent rally held by the band and the Axe Committee would continue as planned.
The only other time the Big Game has been postponed was after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. It has been cancelled outright on two occasions, during World War I and World War II.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu, Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Michael Espinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu.