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California Golden Bears

The California Golden Bears football team is the college football team of the University of California, Berkeley. The team plays its home games at California Memorial Stadium. Memorial Stadium was built to honor Berkeley alumni, students, and other Californians who died in World War I and modeled after the Colosseum in Rome. Memorial Stadium was named one of the 40 best college football stadiums by the Sporting News. The team also has produced two of the oddest and most memorable plays in college football: Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels' fumble recovery and run toward the Cal goal line in the 1929 Rose Bowl, and The Play in the 1982 Big Game with the winning kickoff return after five laterals. The current head coach is Sonny Dykes, who began his tenure at Cal on December 5, 2012.


Football was first played on the Berkeley campus in 1882, albeit in a form that resembled rugby. It was not until 1886 that American football began play. Football was put on hiatus in 1906 when it was decided by the Theodore Roosevelt administration that American football was too dangerous a sport and rugby once again took over the scene. Football returned for good in 1915 and Cal has fielded a team in every year since.

1920s "Wonder Teams"

The 1920s saw the first golden age of California football, as the Golden Bears went 50 straight games without a defeat from 1920 to 1925, with a record of 46 wins and 4 ties. As of 2010, this is the 3rd longest unbeaten (not to be confused with winning) streak in NCAA history. The 1920-1924 squads were so dominant that they were nicknamed "The Wonder Teams," and were coached by Andy Smith. One of the stars during this era was Brick Muller and the University later established a freshman leadership group called the Brick Muller Society. Cal won four Pacific Coast Conference championships and made three trips to the Rose Bowl during this decade, in 1921 (28-0 win over Ohio State), 1922 (0-0 tie with Washington & Jefferson), and 1929 (8-7 loss to Georgia Tech). One of the most famous (or infamous) moments in college football history occurred in the 1929 Rose Bowl Game. In the second quarter, Cal's defense forced a Georgia Tech fumble on their own 30-yard line, and the loose ball was scooped up by Cal center Roy Riegels. He began to run towards the Georgia Tech end zone for a score, but then in trying to get around the Tech players he inexplicably turned around and headed in the other direction. Riegels advanced all the way to the Cal one-yard line before teammate Benny Lom was able to stop him, whereupon he was immediately tackled by what seemed like the entire Georgia Tech team. Cal elected to punt on the next play; the punt was blocked for a safety, giving the Yellow Jackets a 2-0 lead and what turned out to be the decisive points.

California football also achieved success in the 1930s, winning the PCC championship three times and appearing in the 1938 Rose Bowl, where they defeated Alabama 13-0 with two touchdowns scored by Vic Bottari. Because of its staunch defense, the 1937 squad that went to the Rose Bowl was coined "The Thunder Team." In 11 games, Cal limited its opponents to only 33 points and 1,126 total yards.

1940s and 50s: Pappy's Boys

The early 1940s were not banner years. Stanford football shut down for three years during World War II, and some of their players switched to Cal in order to keep playing. Among them were Jim Cox, Bill Hachten, Fred Boensch, George Quist and Billy Agnew. After the war, Quist returned to Stanford, playing to win against Cal in the 1946 Big Game.

1947 saw a dramatic turnaround as Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf became the head coach. Known as "Pappy's Boys," the Cal teams of 1947-1950 won 33 consecutive regular season games, earning three PCC championships and three Rose Bowl berths. However Cal lost all three Rose Bowls (20-14 to Northwestern in 1949, 17-14 to Ohio State in 1950, and 14–6 to Michigan in 1951). Pappy Waldorf left Cal after the 1956 season, having compiled a record of 67-32-4. Cal again earned a conference title in 1958 and subsequently played in the 1959 Rose Bowl, where it lost to Iowa 38–12.