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Stanford, Berkeley Fans Told to Ax the Excesses at Schools' 'Big Game'

Sports: Rowdiness that left 20 people injured after last month's football matchup prompts a letter from Bay Area rivals' leaders and discussions of how to avoid such incidents.

January 05, 1998|KENNETH R. WEISS | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The leaders of Stanford and UC Berkeley are not quite ready to bury the Big Game ax, a trophy passed between the two Bay Area rivals over nearly a century of football matches.

But they have a joint message for fanatics on the sidelines: Be nice.

Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl and Stanford President Gerhard Casper issued a joint letter deploring the postgame celebration Nov. 22 that "deteriorated as fans taunted, threw things, took the field and toppled a goal post, making us feel fortunate that, while more than 20 people were treated for injuries, most were minor."

Berdahl and Casper also brought their staffs together last week to begin discussions about how to avoid such troubles at future games.

Proposals included staging "joint activities" leading up to the Big Game, reviewing the conduct of students and mascots and possibly eliminating a seating section set aside for visiting students in the rival school's stadium.

Chelsea Clinton was even dragged into the rivalry this year, despite the efforts of the president's daughter to maintain a low profile as a freshman at Stanford. A columnist for Berkeley's student paper urged Cal fans to "show your school spirit on Chelsea's bloodied carcass." The author said the column was satire, but the paper apologized.

Casper, in a speech to the faculty Senate this month, lamented that Stanford students are sometimes responsible for antics that fail to "make 'friendly' a meaningful qualifier to 'rivalry.' "

During halftime in its home game with Notre Dame in October, Stanford's notoriously irreverent marching band poked fun at the 19th century potato famine in Ireland and staged a mock debate between a cardinal and the devil. Notre Dame's president termed the musicians' display "not merely sophomoric and boorish, but personally offensive."

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Casper later sent a letter of apology to the school and promised that the band will not play when Notre Dame returns to Palo Alto in 1999. Stanford's band has been barred from Notre Dame's campus in Indiana since its 1991 show, which included a member dressed as a nun banging a drum with a cross.

Stanford bested Notre Dame 33-15 this year, then beat Berkeley 21-20.

Casper's joint letter with Berkeley Chancellor Berdahl, written to Bay Area newspapers, said, "We believe that it is time to ensure that our institutions are national leaders in sportsmanship, as well as in scholarship."

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