California Golden Bears football
2024 California Golden Bears football team
First season1886; 138 years ago
Athletic directorJim Knowlton
Head coachJustin Wilcox
7th season, 36–43 (.456)
StadiumCalifornia Memorial Stadium
(capacity: 63,000[1])
Year built1923, renovated in 2011–12
Field surfaceFieldTurf
LocationBerkeley, California
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
ConferenceACC (since 2024)
Past conferences
All-time record692–569–51 [2] (.547)
Bowl record12–12–1 (.500)
Claimed national titles5 (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1937)
Conference titles14
Consensus All-Americans27[3]
ColorsBlue and gold[4]
Fight songFight for California
Marching bandUniversity of California Marching Band

The California Golden Bears football program represents the University of California, Berkeley in college football as a member of the Pac-12 Conference at the NCAA Division I FBS level. The team plays its home games at California Memorial Stadium and is coached by Justin Wilcox. Since beginning of play in 1886, the team has won five NCAA recognized national titles - 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, and 1937[5] and 14 conference championships, the last one in 2006.[6] It has also produced what are considered to be two of the oddest and most memorable plays in college football: Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels' fumble recovery at the 1929 Rose Bowl and The Play kickoff return in the 1982 Big Game.[7][8]


Main article: History of California Golden Bears football

See also: List of California Golden Bears football seasons

19th century

The 1886 team, one of the earliest teams fielded by the University of California

University of California fielded its first American Football team in 1882.[9] In March 1892, the school played its first game against Stanford University. This was the first instance of the annual rivalry match – The Big Game, one of oldest college rivalries in the United States.[10]

In 1899, coached by Princeton alumni Garrett Cochran, Cal played a home against future legend Pop Warner and the emerging power of that period the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Warner took up Cochran's challenge that his undefeated team could beat any East Coast opponent.[11] The game took place in San Francisco on Christmas Day of that year. Even though Carlisle dominated the majority of its season's opponents, it could only beat Cal 0–2, via a second-half safety. It was after that match that Cal became considered a worthy opponent to the East Coast teams.[11]

20th century

The 1920 Wonder Team
Cal's mascot Oski the Bear in 1961
Ray Willsey and the 1967 team celebrating a Big Game win
Former Cal running Chuck Muncie pictured with the San Diego Chargers in 1981 set several Cal school records and finished as runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1975.

The 1900 Big Game is associated with the Thanksgiving Day disaster. The game took place in San Francisco, with between 500 and 1,000 men watching the game from the rooftop of an operating glass factory next to the sold-out city stadium. During the game, more than 100 fans fell through the factory's roof with the majority falling onto the factory's massive, operational furnace. In total 22 men, mostly boys were killed, with others severely injured.[12][13]

In 1905, there were 18 deaths reported as being caused by the play on the field.[14] The next year, numerous rule changes were agreed upon by the majority of American schools. Berkeley, Stanford, along with other West Coast institutions decided to go in another direction, switching their primary sport to rugby, a sport they considered to be less dangerous.[15][16] During these years, California wielded dominant teams, however the Bears were able to beat Stanford only three times. In 1915, due to various causes, including students frustration with those results, the university along with other west coast teams decided to return to American football.[15][16]

In 1916, Cal joined the Pacific Coast Conference, which consisted of Cal, Washington, Oregon and Oregon Agricultural (which would later become Oregon State). It was also the year when Andy Smith, former coach of Purdue, became Cal's head coach. In 1920, Smith produced the first instance of what became known as The Wonder Teams.[17] From 1920 to 1925, The Wonder Teams went 50 straight games without defeat, made three trips to the Rose Bowl, and won four NCAA recognised national titles - 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923.[5] 1923 saw the opening of the California Memorial Stadium, which sat more than 73,000; several thousand more could watch the games from Tightwad Hill right above it.[18] In January 1926, Andy Smith died at 42 years old, passing away from pneumonia. His death was unexpected and traumatic for the team and the whole university.[17][19][20] His overall Cal record was 74–16–7.[9]

The following year, Smith was succeeded by his former assistant coach Nibs Price. In 1927 and 1928 Price led the last two instances of Wonder Teams.[21] Both teams were undefeated, with the 1928 team being invited to the 1929 Rose Bowl to play against Georgia Tech. An event in this game has become considered one of the stand-out moments in Rose Bowl history.[8] Upon recovering a fumble, Cal's center Roy "the wrong way" Riegels inadvertently spun around, and ran the ball towards Cal's endzone instead of Georgia Tech's. Cal's quarterback was able to catch up with him right next to the endzone, where they were immediately tackled by Georgia Tech players. Price chose to punt, which was blocked for a safety, giving Georgia Tech a 2–0 lead. These turned out to be the decisive points of Cal's 8–7 loss.[8][n 1]

In 1936 Nibs was replaced by Stub Ellison. Ellison lead Cal to three PCC championship titles, but will be most remembered for that the 1937 season's team and its virtually flawless performance. Because of its staunch defense, the 1937 squad that went to the Rose Bowl was coined "The Thunder Team."[22] In its 11 wins, California scored 214 points and earned 7 shutouts, with its opponents could only score 33 points against it.[23] The Thunder Team ended the season beating Alabama 13–0 in the Rose Bowl becoming that year's national champions.[5] 1944 was Ellison's last season.[9]

In 1947, former Northwestern coach Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf become the new head coach of Cal. During his first season the Bears went 9–1, with their only loss coming from conference champs - USC.[24] 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.[9] However, California 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. Because of both Cal's return to greatness and Waldorf's great character, he became admired by both his players and his fans. He became known for addressing fans after every game from a balcony of the Memorial stadium.[24] Like today, during those years a team could make multiple substitutions after every play.[24] Waldorf was known for taking full advantage of this rule, using highly specialized players for key positions. In 1953, the league returned to its pre-World War II rules when only one substitution could be made per play.[24] That year Cal went 7–3 to 4–4–2. The 1953 season is also remembered for recruiting scandal involving star freshman quarterback Ronnie Knox, who along with his father and high school coach were promised paid positions at the university. This was discovered prior to its happening and following investigation by both administration and the PCC conference, it was found that Waldorf was not directly involved in the scandal. Waldorf did not have a winning season after that year, retiring at the end of the 1956 season.[24] During the Waldorf era Cal went 67–32–4.[9]

Cal's last Rose Bowl appearance was in 1958, when the team was coached by Pete Elliott. California went 6–1 in the PCC, but unfortunately lost the 1959 Rose Bowl to Iowa, 38 to 12.[9] That year's team was led by Joe Kapp, who is considered to be one of the greatest players in Cal history.[25] Completely dedicated to his team and his university, he was known to push his teammates to perform beyond their limits and to fiercely intimidate his opponents.[26] He led the team again in 1982 when he accepted the head coaching job at the university.[26]

From 1964 to 1971, the team was led by head coach Ray Willsey, who had a losing career, but it was under him that Cal had one of the sternest defenses in its modern history. Known as The Bear Minimum, the 1968 team was let by Ed White an All-American and future member of College Hall of Fame.[27] Relying on its defense Cal went 7–3–1 and ranking as high as 8th in the AP poll. It won 21–7 at Michigan and beat No. 10 Syracuse 43–0. Earning three shutouts, it held its opponents to 10.4 points a game.[27] The Bear Minimum still holds Cal's records for opponents' average gains per play – 3.60, as well as the fewest rushing touchdowns per season – 5 (same as the Thunder Team). Its average yards per rush was 2.51 which is still second only to the Thunder Team with 2.50 yards per rush.[23]

In the 1970s Cal had seven winning seasons, in 1975 it was led by coach Mike White, running back Chuck Muncie, and quarterback Joe Roth. The team led the nation in total offense, sharing the Pac-8 title with UCLA.[28][29] Roth had a great start in 1976, however during the season his performance started to drop.[30] Unknown to almost everyone, Roth was diagnosed with melanoma the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Only White and very few people at Cal knew about it.[30] With Roth continuing to play he still had a strong season and was named an All-American. His last game was in January 1977 at an all-star game in Japan, he died several weeks later in Berkeley. In respect of his perseverance, and dedication to others, his former locker is dedicated in his honor and the annual home game against that year's opponent UCLA or USC, it is known as the Joe Roth Memorial Game, and an annual award bearing his name goes to the Cal player who best exemplifies Roth's courage, sportsmanship and attitude.[29][30] Rich Campbell was a highly touted recruit out of Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, California and was Cal's starting quarterback for his sophomore through senior seasons, 1978–1980. Campbell was the recipient of the highly valued Joe Roth Award in 1978, and Roth had actually helped to recruit Campbell to Cal. Campbell's success in the 1979 season as a junior led to his being featured on the cover of Street and Smith's Official Yearbook 1980 College Football Preview.[31] Stats for 1979, Cal's only bowl appearance between 1958 and 1990, show Campbell was 3rd in the nation in passing yards, 2nd in completions, 2nd in completion %, and Cal was 3rd in Team Passing Offense.[32] In 1980, during his senior year at the University of California, he set a then-NCAA record with 43 completed passes in 53 attempts in a losing effort against the Florida Gators. Campbell was also an All-American his senior season, completing an NCAA best 71% of his passes. During his college career at Cal, he passed for 7174 yards, a record at the time. He is still fourth all time in both passing yards and completions at Cal, as well as 12th in touchdown passes. Among the top quarterbacks ever at Cal, he was the most accurate passer in Cal history, as well as in the top five in both yards per attempt at 7.7 and passing efficiency rating (min. 300 attempts) at 132.7.[33]

In the 1980s, the program returned to mediocrity, with Cal posting only one winning season in the entire decade, in 1982.[9] The team was coached by Cal's former quarterback Joe Kapp and is most known for what happened in the annual Big Game against Stanford, which became known as The Play. Led by quarterback John Elway, Stanford made a field goal with only four seconds left in the game, resulting in the Cardinal taking a one-point lead. In the ensuing kickoff return, Cal used five laterals to score a touchdown and turn certain defeat into a 25–20 victory.[34] The Play is considered to be one of the most memorable moments in college football history.[35] Following that game, Cal did not have a winning season until 1990.[9] That year's the team was led by head coach Bruce Snyder. The team finished 4th in the Pac-10, with even greater improvement coming in the following year. The Bears finished the 1991 season in 2nd place in the conference, and were invited to play against the Clemson Tigers in the Florida Citrus Bowl. While the Tigers finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference, they were thoroughly defeated by the Bears 37–13.[36] Because of salary negotiation problems with Cal's new athletic director, Snyder left Cal for the Arizona State Sun Devils right after the Citrus Bowl.[36] In 1993 and under Cal's next coach Keith Gilbertson, Cal went 9–4 overall and 4–4 in the Pac-10, finishing in 5th place. The team did not have a better season during the next 10 years; in 2001 under coach Tom Holmoe, the Bears won only one game.[37]

21st century

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers played at Cal in 2003 and 2004
Running back Marshawn Lynch at the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson in 2006

California began a renaissance under Jeff Tedford who became head coach in 2002. Under him the Golden Bears posted eight consecutive winning seasons, a feat that had not been accomplished since the days of Pappy Waldorf.[37] They also got their first win over Stanford in 8 years.[37] After being ruled ineligible for a bowl game in 2002 due to academic infractions under Holmoe, the Bears went on to appear in seven straight bowl games.[9] Led by future NFL superstar Aaron Rodgers, the 2004 Bears posted a 10–1 regular season record. Their only loss came against the eventual national champion USC. The team finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in the nation.[38] Likely due to the intensive media and coach polling lobbying conducted by Texas coach Mac Brown, Cal was not invited to the Rose Bowl.[38] California was upset by lower ranked Texas Tech in that season's Holiday Bowl. In 2006, the bears finished the conference 7–2, sharing the Pac-10 title with USC. This was Cal's first Pac-10 championship since 1975.[39] After that year, Tedford could not place the Bears higher than 4th place.[9] His last year was 2012. Tedford left the Bears with the most bowl wins (five), conference wins (50), and games coached (139), in school's history.[37] He also tied Pappy Waldorf for most Big Game wins - 7. During his tenure, California produced 40 players drafted by the NFL, including eight first-round picks.[40]

At the end of 2012, Sonny Dykes was announced as the new head coach. The hire of Dykes was intended to improve the program's low graduation rate under Tedford.[41] He was expected to bring significant offensive improvements with his up-tempo, pass-oriented Air Raid offense. However, his first year will be most remembered for the team's defensive failure. He became the first head coach in Golden Bear history that could not defeat a single Division I NCAA opponent.[9] Over his four years at Cal, Dykes failed to have a single winning season within the conference. Quarterback Jared Goff can be considered one of the few positive highlights of that period. In his three years under Dykes' Air Raid, he set 26 team records, including most season and career touchdowns, pass yardage gained, as well as the lowest percentage of interceptions.[42]

In 2017, Cal appointed Justin Wilcox, whose defensive-minded approach could be considered a polar opposite of Dykes, as the new coach.[43] That year the Bears had a losing season; however, they beat No. 8 Washington State 37–3.[44] In 2018, the Bears went 7–6 with Wilcox's defense being ranked No. 15 in the nation in total yards allowed.[45] The highlight of the season was defeating USC for the first time since 2003, when Wilcox was the Cal linebackers coach. In the 2019 season, the Bears improved to an 8–5 record that included a win at the Redbox Bowl. They achieved their highest ranking since 2009 when they were ranked No. 15 after a 4–0 start to the season[46] and also defeated Stanford in the Big Game for the first time since 2009.

Conference affiliations

Memorial Stadium

Main article: California Memorial Stadium

California Memorial Stadium

California 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. It has been named one of the top college football stadiums by various publications, and it is also listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[47][48][49] The stadium is located on the Hayward Fault, which passes directly under the playing field, nearly from goal post to goal post.[50] A 1998 seismic safety study on the California campus gave the stadium a "poor" rating (meaning that the building represents an "appreciable life hazard" in an earthquake).[51] The renovation started in the summer of 2010 and was completed by the beginning of the 2012 season.


National championships

California has won five (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1937) national championships from NCAA-designated major selectors.[5][52] California claims all five of these national championships.[53] The Golden Bears, however, have never finished a season No. 1 in the AP or Coaches' Poll.

Year Coach Selector Record Bowl Opponent Result Final AP Final Coaches
1920 Andy Smith Football Research, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess) 9–0 Rose Bowl Ohio State W 28–0
1921 Andy Smith Billingsley MOV, Boand, Football Research, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess) 9–0–1 Rose Bowl Washington & Jefferson T 0–0
1922 Andy Smith Billingsley MOV, Houlgate, NCF, Sagarin 9–0
1923 Andy Smith Houlgate 9–0–1
1937 Stub Allison Dunkel, Helms 10–0–1 Rose Bowl Alabama W 13–0 No. 2

Conference championships

California has won a total of 14 conference championships since 1916.[54]: 73–79 

Quarterback Joe Kapp guided the Golden Bears to the 1958 PCC championship. Kapp is the only player to play quarterback in the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, and the Grey Cup.
Year Conference Coach Conference record Overall record
1918 PCC Andy Smith 2–0 7–2
1920 PCC Andy Smith 3–0 9–0
1921 PCC Andy Smith 4–0 9–0–1
1922 PCC Andy Smith 4–0 9–0
1923 PCC Andy Smith 5–0 9–0–1
1935 PCC Stub Allison 4–1 9–1
1937 PCC Stub Allison 6–0–1 10–0–1
1938 PCC Stub Allison 6–1 10–1
1948 PCC Pappy Waldorf 6–0 10–1
1949 PCC Pappy Waldorf 7–0 10–1
1950 PCC Pappy Waldorf 5–0–1 9–1–1
1958 PCC Pete Elliott 6–1 7–4
1975 Pac-8 Mike White 6–1 8–3
2006 Pac-10 Jeff Tedford 7–2 10–3

† Co-champions


The Big Game vs. Stanford in 2010


Main article: Big Game (American football)

California's main rival is Stanford. The two schools participate in the Big Game every year, with the winner taking home the Stanford Axe. Stanford leads the series record at 65–50–11 through the 2023 season.[55]


Main article: California–UCLA football rivalry

California has an active rivalry with UCLA. The schools are the two largest public universities in the state of California and both have been part of the same conference for many years. UCLA leads the series 55–34–1 through the 2020 season.[56]


Cal also has a rivalry with USC.[57][58][59] While not as significant as the Stanford or UCLA rivalries, for either school, Cal and USC played an annual game, and met more than 100 times. The game was often called The Weekender, referring to the weekend trip to the Bay Area; although, this term also applied to the Stanford game, as each series (Cal/USC and Stanford/USC) would alternate home and away. For Cal, the USC or UCLA game was later known as the Joe Roth Game, depending on who the Golden Bears played in Berkeley, a tradition started in 1977 to honor the former Cal quarterback.[60] As of the 2023 season, USC had played Cal more than any other opponent,[61] with the 2023 game marking the 112th meeting, according to Cal,[62] and the 108th meeting according to USC,[62] with discrepancies in the game record before 1920. Cal's record in the series was 33–73–6, as of 2023.[62] The last Weekender was played on October 28, 2023, with Cal losing to USC 49–50.[63] In 2024, USC will join the Big Ten Conference[64][65] while Cal will join the Atlantic Coast Conference.[66][67] This will put the rivalry between the Bears and Trojans on hiatus with no future meetings scheduled as of March 2024.[68]

Head coaches

Main article: List of California Golden Bears head football coaches

No. Coach Tenure Seasons Wins Losses Ties Pct. Bowls
1 Oscar S. Howard 1886 1 6 2 1 .722 0
1.5 No coach 1887–1892 5 18 4 0 .818 0
2 Lee McClung 1892 1 2 1 1 .625 0
3 Pudge Heffelfinger 1893 1 5 1 1 .786 0
4 Charles O. Gill 1894 1 0 1 2 .333 0
5 Frank Butterworth 1895–1896 2 9 3 3 .700 0
6 Charles P. Nott 1897 1 0 3 2 .200 0
7 Garrett Cochran 1898–1899 2 15 1 3 .868 0
8 Addison Kelly 1900 1 4 2 1 .643 0
9 Frank W. Simpson 1901 1 9 0 1 .950 0
10 James Whipple 1902–1903 2 14 1 2 .882 0
11 James Hopper 1904 1 6 1 1 .813 0
12 J. W. Knibbs 1905 1 4 1 2 .714 0
14† James Schaeffer 1915 1 8 5 0 .615 0
15 Andy Smith 1916–1925 10 74 16 7 .799 2
16 Nibs Price 1926–1930 5 27 17 3 .606 1
17 Bill Ingram 1931–1934 4 27 14 4 .644 0
18 Stub Allison 1935–1944 10 58 42 2 .578 1
19 Buck Shaw 1945 1 4 5 1 .450 0
20 Frank Wickhorst 1946 1 2 7 0 .222 0
21 Pappy Waldorf 1947–1956 10 67 32 4 .650 3
22 Pete Elliott 1957–1959 3 10 21 0 .323 1
23 Marv Levy 1960–1963 4 8 29 3 .238 0
24 Ray Willsey 1964–1971 8 40 42 1 .488 0
25 Mike White 1972–1977 6 35 30 1 .538 0
26 Roger Theder 1978–1981 4 18 27 0 .400 1
27 Joe Kapp 1982–1986 5 20 34 1 .373 0
28 Bruce Snyder 1987–1991 5 29 24 4 .544 2
29 Keith Gilbertson 1992–1995 4 20 26 0 .435 1
30 Steve Mariucci 1996 1 6 6 0 .500 1
31 Tom Holmoe 1997–2001 5 12 43 0 .218 0
32 Jeff Tedford 2002–2012 11 82 57 0 .590 8
33 Sonny Dykes 2013–2016 4 19 30 0 .388 1
34 Justin Wilcox 2017–present 7 36 43 0 .456 3

† From 1906 to 1914, rugby was played instead of football. Cal's 13th coach was Oscar Taylor from 1906 to 1908. Cal's 14th coach, James Schaeffer, coached rugby from 1909 to 1914 and football in 1915.

Bowl games

Main article: List of California Golden Bears bowl games

1938 Rose Bowl banner

California has participated in 24 bowl games, garnering a record of 12–12–1.

Year Coach Bowl Opponent Result
1920 Andy Smith Rose Ohio State W 28–0
1921 Andy Smith Rose Washington & Jefferson T 0–0
1928 Nibs Price Rose Georgia Tech L 7–8
1937 Stub Allison Rose Alabama W 13–0
1948 Pappy Waldorf Rose Northwestern L 14–20
1949 Pappy Waldorf Rose Ohio State L 14–17
1950 Pappy Waldorf Rose Michigan L 6–14
1958 Pete Elliott Rose Iowa L 12–38
1979 Roger Theder Garden State Temple L 17–28
1990 Bruce Snyder Copper Wyoming W 17–15
1991 Bruce Snyder Citrus Clemson W 37–13
1993 Keith Gilbertson Alamo Iowa W 37–3
1996 Steve Mariucci Aloha Navy L 38–42
2003 Jeff Tedford Insight Virginia Tech W 52–49
2004 Jeff Tedford Holiday Texas Tech L 31–45
2005 Jeff Tedford Las Vegas BYU W 35–28
2006 Jeff Tedford Holiday Texas A&M W 45–10
2007 Jeff Tedford Armed Forces Air Force W 42–36
2008 Jeff Tedford Emerald Miami W 24–17
2009 Jeff Tedford Poinsettia Utah L 27–37
2011 Jeff Tedford Holiday Texas L 10–21
2015 Sonny Dykes Armed Forces Air Force W 55–36
2018 Justin Wilcox Cheez-It TCU L 7–10
2019 Justin Wilcox Redbox Illinois W 35–20
2023 Justin Wilcox Independence Texas Tech L 14–34

Current NFL players

QB Jared Goff
WR Keenan Allen

As of September 4, 2023[69]

Player Position NFL Team NFL Year
Keenan Allen WR Chicago Bears 2013
Tyson Alualu DT Detroit Lions 2010
Bryan Anger P Dallas Cowboys 2012
Camryn Bynum S Minnesota Vikings 2021
Matthew Cindric OL Minnesota Vikings 2024
Jake Curhan OT Chicago Bears 2021
Ashtyn Davis S New York Jets 2020
Jared Goff QB Detroit Lions 2016
Cameron Goode LB Miami Dolphins 2022
Jaylinn Hawkins S New England Patriots 2020
Elijah Hicks S Chicago Bears 2022
Cameron Jordan DE New Orleans Saints 2011
Patrick Mekari G Baltimore Ravens 2019
Patrick McMorris S Miami Dolphins 2024
Aaron Rodgers QB New York Jets 2005
Daniel Scott S Indianapolis Colts 2023
Jackson Sirmon LB New York Jets 2024
Jake Tonges TE San Francisco 49ers 2022

Retired numbers

Main article: List of NCAA football retired numbers

No. Player Position Career No. ret. Ref.
12 Joe Roth QB 1975–1976 1977 [70]

Future opponents

Conference opponents

On October 30, 2023, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced the future schedules for SMU for the 2024 season to 2030.[71] The 17-team ACC will play an eight-game conference schedule with just one division, with four non-conference contests. All 17 teams will play each other at least twice in 7 years, once at home and once on the road. The new scheduling includes Cal to have two protected games to play each year with SMU and Stanford (rivalry) and rotate the remaining 14 teams each year.[72]

Non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of December 14, 2023.[73][74]

2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2032
UC Davis UNLV at UNLV Florida at Minnesota at Wyoming Wyoming
at Auburn Minnesota at Florida
San Diego State at San Diego State
Oregon State at Oregon State


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