Bubbling Sproul Fountain Means ‘Big Game' Time

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Just about everyone has seen the fountain on Sproul Plaza filled with foaming soap bubbles or dyed a deep blue-often a sign of the Big Game rivalry between UC Berkeley and Stanford.

The closer the Big Game gets, the higher the probability that Stanford is behind the fountain pranks, says Peterangelo Vallis, chair of the UC Rally Committee.

The infamous rivalry began when Stanford was founded in 1892, said Vallis. The bulk of the Big Game pranks start around early November, and last until the day of the Big Game, which this year is Nov. 17.

The fountain, built in the late 1950s, is one of the easiest targets for pranksters because it is located in the middle of a public area.

Kroeber Fountain is also a target. The Campanile and Sather Gate have been painted in rival colors in the past. And of course, the Big C is target number one as the Big Game nears.

"The pranks are part of a very rich, very fun tradition," Vallis says.

One year, UC Berkeley students released blue-and gold-colored lab rats in the Stanford library.

In 1997, during the 100th Big Game at Stanford, a group of Cal fans broke into Stanford's public announcement system. When Stanford committed a penalty, the students spoke over the loudspeaker system, slapping Stanford with a "personal foul," accusing them of "excessive arrogance" and ending with a proud "Go Bears."

The announcement was broadcast throughout the entire stadium and on television. The Stanford section of the stadium was confused, and the rest of the stadium erupted in cheer, Vallis says.

It was "the most classic" Big Game prank, says Chad Smith, Cal's head microphone-man for athletic events.

But Vallis says the ultimate Big Game prank is stealing the Stanford axe, although that hasn't been accomplished since the mid-1980s.

In April 1967, the axe disappeared out of the Stanford axe case, and was not returned until the day of the Big Game. That day brought the Cardinals a triple beating-Cal won the game against the favored Stanford team, the axe came back to UC Berkeley and Stanford was denied a trip to the Rose Bowl because of the loss.

Stanford has also pulled off some good pranks against Cal.

In 1982, after the Big Game-a game Cal won-Stanford managed to replace every issue of The Daily Californian on Monday with a fake issue, Vallis says. The paper had the same format and the same bylines as regular copies of the paper, but the entire edition was filled with how Cal lost the game, and how the coach was at home sobbing.

But the UC Rally Committee says they haven't coordinated any stunts since the 1940s.

"We promote the legal fun part of the rivalry," Vallis says. "We're too public. I don't know who does (the pranks). I wish I did."

But present-day pranks have lost the creative touch, some Cal fans say.

"There has always been foam (in the fountain), even last year. And it just reappeared this year," said Eunice Kim, a second-year UC Berkeley student.

Stanford has not orchestrated a spectacular prank on the Cal campus in a long time, Smith says. The ones that do occur are "juvenile" at best, he says.

"I mainly credit that to the fact that Stanford students are fairly apathetic about the whole thing," Smith says.

But as some fans point out, the rivalry may also be losing its focus at UC Berkeley.

"I don't think the rivalry really affects that many people, just the people in the sports teams," Kim says. "The only prank I've heard of is the Big C painted red."

Every once in a while, though, fans do pull off a brilliant prank.

"There is no college around the country that has quite the same rivalry as us. It's special," Vallis says. "The Big Game is the most-watched college football game around the world. From Paris to London, Moscow, Hong Kong, Japan-alumni from both schools will gather on opposite sides to watch the Big Game."


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