As we approach the last matchup between Cal and Stanford football in the Pac-12, the 126th Big Game is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate support for our Cardinal student athletes as they transition into the ACC. Despite historic changes across the NCAA, one thing remains: the battle for the Axe.
Camille Peisner ’25 is a sprinter for the track and field team. As a two-time Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll athlete, she shares her thoughts on Stanford’s move to the ACC ahead of Big Game.
The summer sunshine started creeping into my room when I rolled over in bed to check the time on my iPhone. I don’t remember what the clock read, but I do recall the 38 text messages and push notifications that flooded my lock screen. I snatched my glasses from my nightstand to ensure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me as I scrolled through them all. Nope, this was really happening. I shot out of bed and flew down the stairs as if I were a kid on Christmas.
“WE’RE GOING TO THE ACC!” I burst to my parents who were standing in the kitchen.
They hadn’t seen me this excited over a notification since I opened my Stanford acceptance letter a few years earlier. Having already been offered to run track at Stanford, I was overwhelmed with relief to proceed with my commitment and start my four years on the Farm. Now, with the Pac-12 in intensive care, the same feeling rushed through my body knowing that Stanford would maintain athletic legitimacy in a Power 4 conference in the foreseeable future.
Really, it was ACC or bust. Without invitations to join the Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC, the ACC was our last resort to remain in a Power 4 conference. For the University with the most team and individual national championships — 544 and 137, respectively — the alternative was disheartening to think about.
While the euphoria of getting into Stanford is shared by all who are accepted (just search Stanford acceptance on YouTube — I tear up every time), I quickly realized that I was much more alone in my eagerness to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
I heard sighs from my teammates about travel, grumbles from alumni on the dissipation of the Pac-12 and threats of departure from current ACC programs. Were the glasses I put on that morning rose-colored? I didn’t think so.
Sure, time zones and distance will create long travel days for student athletes, multiply missed class time and increase expenses. However, in a message to student athletes, athletics director Bernard Muir assured us that over half of us will not experience any significant travel changes. For those who do, away games will be optimized during fall and spring break to reduce treks back and forth from the East Coast.
Some athletes, like our reigning national champions on the women’s water polo team, won’t even change conferences from the MPSF. As for academics, members of the student athlete advisory committee and athletics department are already in conversation with administration regarding more accommodating absence policies.
The added travel expenses, combined with Stanford’s sacrificed media rights as an entry ticket to the ACC, are certainly not ideal. However, Muir is confident that the Board of Trustees and alumni will support in this regard.
As for those who mourn the loss of the Pac-12, I join you. I encourage you to take time to grieve the 108 years of unsurpassed championships and annual rivalries as if they were a loved one because, for many of us, the long-standing traditions of the Pac-12 likely felt like the companionship of an old friend. Yet we cannot hold onto the past — we must make new traditions of rivalry and excellence in our new conference home.
Before we get there, though, I urge you to pay your respects not by sulking but by supporting — and by winning. Give Stanford’s tenure in the Pac-12 the farewell tour it deserves. Men’s cross country has already gone out on top. Every team should strive to do as such.
Just as we should strive to break into the ACC with unapologetic confidence. Need I remind disgruntled ACC members of Stanford’s 26 of 29 possible Directors’ Cup victories? Or its 46 consecutive years of winning at least one national team title? I shouldn’t even have to mention Stanford’s 26 Olympic medals at the Tokyo Olympics, more than any other institution.
In many sports, like women’s soccer and baseball, Stanford’s addition into the ACC bolsters strength of schedule. In other sports, namely football, Stanford will need to rise to the occasion the way they have against No. 3 Oregon in 2021, in front of 77,000 Fighting Irish fans in 2022 and during prime time in Boulder in 2023 after trailing 29-0 at halftime.
In any case, may this serve as a warning to the ACC: You may have let us in, but don’t count us out.