Last weekend, in what has to be the first time in recorded history, the ASSU actually ranked higher than Stanford football in importance among the student body. The Cardinal and White spring game and the results of the ASSU spring general election both came on Saturday, yet somehow, despite having a preseason top-10 team and the best quarterback in college football, the team’s biggest public showcase before next season attracted decidedly less student interest than the election.
A big reason for the disinterest on the Farm was because the spring game wasn’t played in Stanford Stadium—for the second consecutive year, the game was held at Kezar Stadium at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The athletic department did its part to get students involved by sponsoring free buses from campus to Kezar and back (which, in full disclosure, I took advantage of to head to the city and cover the game for The Daily) and offering one Red Zone point toward Big Game tickets next year.
Overall, I have to say that having the game at Kezar Stadium was actually quite a lot of fun. The game took on a very festive atmosphere, with plenty of tailgating and pickup games out in the park. Kezar itself lent itself well to hosting the spring game—with a reported turnout of around 6,800, the small stadium created a very intimate atmosphere, which would have been lost in 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium. Lastly, it was pretty nice to take a day trip up to the city and watch some football without having to spend a dime.
Yet despite the great experience I had in San Francisco, I still think the game should be moved back to Stanford Stadium next season and for the foreseeable future. If the end goal of having a spring game is to promote interest in Stanford football and get fans excited about the coming season, putting the game on campus is a much better way to achieve those goals.
To give a bit of background as to why the game is in Kezar in the first place, Stanford Stadium was undergoing renovations to its turf last spring, so the athletic department settled on Kezar as the best replacement venue for the game. The former head coach—who shall not be named in this column—liked it immensely, so this year’s game was scheduled for Kezar as well. Playing in San Francisco was said to have a number of advantages, namely building a fan base in a city whose college football scene has historically been dominated by California.
To start with, that premise is just dumb; there’s no other way to really describe it. Cal fans, whose hate for Stanford could probably power the San Francisco power grid if we could figure out how to harness it, are not going to suddenly switch over because we played a glorified scrimmage at tiny Kezar, especially with the Golden Bears playing their home games at AT&T Park next season. Few fans that know about our spring game and care enough to attend are going to be persuaded by the game to buy season tickets; by and large, those in attendance were either already dedicated fans or alumni who used the game as a good place for a mini-reunion.
Kezar also made life fairly difficult for the press corps. As you would expect in a high school stadium, the press box was tiny and literally crammed with ESPN equipment, and from what I hear about the ESPN3.com video feed, the coverage was pretty terrible. Obviously Stanford Stadium, with its spacious press box and optimization for TV audiences, would help boost the game’s media coverage.
Most importantly, keeping the game at Stanford Stadium keeps interest high among the main pillars of the team’s fan base: alumni, others in the surrounding area and the students. An on-campus game ensures easy access for everyone who wants to attend the game, and Stanford could offer free parking as a solid incentive to attend. Perhaps most importantly, a spring game at Kezar Stadium indicates that Stanford is not quite yet ready to step up and be a big-time program, since it hosts its spring game in a dinky little high school venue. Though we’ll never attract 90,000 fans to our spring game like Alabama does, Stanford can at least broadcast the message that it is ready to be taken seriously and move its signature spring showcase to its beautiful facility right here in Palo Alto.
Kabir Sawhney wants the spring game at Stanford Stadium so he can enjoy the spacious press box. Untangle his biases and tell him to sit with the commoners at ksawhney “at” stanford.edu.