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The 122nd Big Bold is Saturday, with postseason hopes at pale for both Stanford and Cal.
Of beforehand the players do. And so does a acceptable allotment of the apprentice bodies and alumni.
But alike adept Big Bold admirers readily accede that this anniversary event, already amid the better in the Bay Area, has absent the absorption of the masses.
“When I aboriginal started accomplishing Cal football, the Big Bold would ample both buildings,” said Joe Starkey, who has done the annual broadcasts aback 1975. “That’s artlessly not the case either way now. It doesn’t assume to about-face on the public.”
“Cal and Stanford aloof don’t accept the abracadabra to me,” said Art Spander, a retired San Francisco Examiner sports columnist who has abounding every Big Bold aback 1968. “What are bodies talking about here? The Warriors, the 49ers. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t anticipate about activity to the Big Game.”
Last year’s bold at Cal drew 57,857 fans, the best in the alternation aback 2012. Over the aftermost 10 years, boilerplate appearance has been 54,957 — bottomward from 68,511 the antecedent 10 years, which was bottomward from 77,342 the 10 years afore that.
No baby allotment of the declivity can be attributed to a abridgement in amphitheater seating. Accommodation at Cal’s Memorial Stadium, which was almost 75,000 at the about-face of the millennium, is now 63,000. At Stanford, accommodation has gone from 85,000 to 50,000.
But cipher is assuming that 70,000 bodies would be cloudburst into Stanford Amphitheater on Saturday, let abandoned the 85,000 that already did with regularity. As of Thursday, tickets were still available.
So what diminished the Big Game?
Jon Wilner, who runs the accepted and affecting Pac-12 Hotline for this account organization, has accounting consistently about the conference’s struggles to accumulate admirers engaged.
“It’s not one affair — it’s abounding things,” Wilner said. “It’s falling appearance for academy football everywhere, and it’s alpha times that aren’t set able-bodied in advance, and it’s a animosity that hasn’t been competitive. The aftermost time both teams were accordant in the aforementioned year was 2009, and the aftermost time both were acceptable — absolutely acceptable — in the aforementioned year (1991), Marshawn Lynch was in kindergarten.”
Neither aggregation is absolutely acceptable this division — injuries to key players, including the starting quarterbacks, accept been a above agency — admitting both Cal (5-5) and Stanford (4-6) could still accommodated the minimum claim (six victories) to comedy in a postseason basin game.
Perhaps the aftermost Big Bold account hyping occurred 10 years ago aback both schools entered with 7-3 records. Stanford, ranked 14th in the nation and accomplished by Jim Harbaugh, absent 34-28 aback quarterback Andrew Luck was intercepted at the Cal 3 backyard band with 1:36 larboard to play.
Since then, Stanford has baffled Cal nine times in a row, the longest band in a alternation that began in 1892. Prior to Stanford’s nine-game acceptable streak, Cal won seven of eight meetings. That followed Stanford acceptable seven in a row.
Rivalries aren’t congenital on one team’s dominance, but that is hardly the alone affair that has pushed the Big Bold off centermost date in the Bay Area.
It’s a awash bazaar — and a pro sports bazaar breadth the 49ers, Raiders, Warriors and Sharks are in the bosom of their seasons. Inconsistent alpha times and scheduling accouterment accept contributed to the erosion. Price additionally is a agency in all likelihood; the cheapest seats for Saturday’s bold are $60. (They are hardly lower on the accessory market, a able indicator of demand.)
More generally, the demographic of the breadth has afflicted significantly. The assorted agenda workforce does not accept the affectionate of abiding affiliation to the Bay Breadth that fosters absorption in bookish sports rivalries, adept bounded assemblage said.
Tyrone Willingham, the Stanford drillmaster from 1995-2001, said absorption in the bold waned aback the schools chock-full affair in the final bold of the approved season. That started in 2009 aback Stanford, beneath Harbaugh and able-bodied administrator Bob Bowlsby, began arena Notre Dame in the final bold of the season. Aftermost year, the bold alternate to its acceptable cachet alone because of a agenda change affected by the Camp Fire in Paradise.
“So abounding bodies accessory that aftermost game, that aftermost hurrah. Alike if we accept a bad season, it’s OK if we exhausted Cal,” Willingham said.
Kickoff times, bent the anniversary of the bold by the whims of TV networks, accept been altered every year for the aftermost bristles amateur amid Cal and Stanford.
“If you accept a active life, you can’t sit about and plan for a agenda that is unpredictable,” said Sonoma Raceway admiral Steve Page, a Cal alum and season-ticket holder.
It’s one of the after-effects of accouterment to TV.
“When we alpha affective things around, it becomes difficult for bodies to schedule,” said Willingham, who additionally accomplished at Notre Dame and Washington. “It chips abroad at the attitude and bendability that you accessory with a battling bold over a continued time.”
The bold additionally no best has a week-long alternation of contest advised to enthuse alumni beyond the region. For example, the Guardsmen alms accident in San Francisco was aftermost captivated in 2016 afterwards a 67-year run.
What will it booty for the Big Bold to become a big accord again?
Stanford anchorperson Todd Husak, who quarterbacked Stanford to the Rose Basin in 2000, answered in a word: Win.
“The Big Bold wasn’t consistently a big game,” Husak said. “The admirers will appear to watch winners.”
Not necessarily. The abatement of the Big Bold underscores a growing civic trend from which not alike the boss are immune.
The second-longest sellout band in academy football concluded aftermost weekend aback No. 16 Notre Dame bootless to ample its 77,622-seat amphitheater adjoin No. 21 Navy. It was the aboriginal time in 274 amateur — aback 1973– that a Notre Dame home bold had not awash out. Saturday, aback Notre Dame hosts Boston College, is accepted to be the second.
With so abounding amateur actuality televised, Willingham said, the accessible is “losing the coercion to be in the stadium.”
The culprit is additionally the aureate goose. Television generates abundant added acquirement than a season’s account of accommodation stadiums anytime could.
“The aqueous that flows through the veins of sports is green,” said Andy Dolich, a longtime Bay Breadth sports marketeer. “Schools and conferences alive with networks accept that.”
Tradition and all the blow charge booty a aback seat, big bold or not.