For the first time since it was postponed for a week in 1963 following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the annual Cal-Stanford Big Game will not be played on its originally-scheduled date. That game (last year’s edition, which Stanford won 17-14, is seen above) was initially set for 7:30 p.m. Eastern Saturday in Berkeley on Pac-12 Networks, but thanks to the terrible air quality in the Bay Area (it’s billed as the worst in the world at the moment, and had already led to a Cal basketball game against Detroit Mercy Thursday being cancelled, and to other teams’ practices being cancelled or moving inside) from the wildfires hitting Northern California, it’s going to be moved back to Saturday, Dec. 1 (and played at 3 p.m. Eastern that day, also on Pac-12 Networks). As Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle notes, that’s highly unusual:
The only years since 1892 in which the traditional rivalry wasn’t played were during World War I (1915-18) and World War II (1943-45). The 1963 Big Game was postponed a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“We have been carefully tracking air quality in Berkeley and the Bay Area over the past week, relying on the best data and guidance available to us from medical and environmental experts,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in the statement. “The forecasts we have received show a minimal chance of the improvement necessary to hold the game on Saturday. While we would have preferred to play the Big Game on its scheduled date, 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.”
With the air this bad, this certainly makes some sense; holding the game as planned Saturday definitely wouldn’t have been good for players, coaches, or fans. And with both teams 6-4 overall (Stanford is 4-3 in the Pac-12, Cal is 3-4 there), this game isn’t exactly consequential for the Pac-12 championship game (to be held Friday, Nov. 30, with either Washington State or Washington representing the Pac-12 North and any of Utah, Arizona State or Arizona representing the Pac-12 South). So holding it after that is fine, and this is before the general bowl selections, so there’s no issue there either.
Stanford-Cal will now be going up against other conference championships, but there weren’t necessarily a lot of neutral fans going to watch this game anyway, especially with it being on the limited-distribution Pac-12 Networks. And overall, this seems like a pretty logical move to make. But it does add to a very limited number of times where this game has been moved.