Whistles, flags and staring contests: Axe Committee keeps school spirit alive

Nov. 16, 2023, 9:42 p.m.

If you’ve begun to believe that Stanford’s train schedule has picked up in the last week, you can thank the Axe Committee.

As Big Game approaches, the committee embraces its many duties to rally up campus energy. Among them is a staring contest with UC Berkeley’s Rally Committee during the final quarter of the game. 

The committee commits itself to nurturing school spirit. At its core, the committee serves as the guardian and champion of the Axe, a symbol of victory in the annual Big Game against UC Berkeley that dates back over 120 years.

In 1930, Axe Comm’s founding members, the “Immortal 21,” recaptured the Axe from Cal. Over the ensuing decades, the committee underwent various transformations. The contemporary iteration of the Axe Committee has been active since 1982.

Today’s committee members actively participate in various athletic events, bringing excitement to the sidelines during football season. Members wave flags, launch t-shirts and blast their iconic train whistle each time Stanford scores.

Hayden Henry ’25 serves as chair of the Axe Committee. He joined the committee as a frosh, drawn to its lively atmosphere and the opportunity to immerse himself in its spirited world.

A photo of a fountain with its water stained red.
Axe Committee members dye fountains red across Stanford prior to Big Game. (Photo: HANNAH SHU/The Stanford Daily)

One of Henry’s standout moments was his role as the Big Game Week coordinator in 2022. This position involves organizing events during the week, including camping out at the Birdcage at White Plaza 126 hours before kick-off to celebrate the 126th game and blasting the train whistle hourly leading up to the game.  

To add fun to the countdown, the Axe Committee invites campus celebrities to come blow the whistle at various hours. These individuals include administrators, professors, coaches, players and fellow students. Committee members also dye fountains into the vibrant Stanford color.

A Stanford faculty member blowing the whistle in White Plaza.
As part of the countdown to Big Game, Axe Committee members invite Stanford professors and students to blow the thunderous whistle in White Plaza every hour. (Photo: HANNAH SHU/The Stanford Daily)

“We submit work orders to the University to request temporary deactivation of filters in the fountains,” said Henry. “This enables the red dye we place in them to remain vibrant throughout the entire week.”

“This year’s Big Game Rally is a memorable event, featuring football seniors, a freshmen banner kick-off and a nod to the Axe tradition’s history,” Henry said. According to Henry, the committee has been preparing for Big Game since the summer.

Members of the Axe Committee voluntarily undergo comprehensive training sessions, from understanding safety measures during games to running Stanford flags on the sidelines, blowing the train whistle and raising and lowering goal post nets. 

Apart from safeguarding the Axe and attending football games, the Axe Committee hosts various social events that foster camaraderie. Whether it’s Axe-frosh rollouts, game watch parties with pizza or a special dinner coined “Special D,” the committee wants to create lasting connections among its members. This year’s “Special D,” themed “RIP Pac-12,” took place in Valerio’s row house and tried to bring members together before the Big Game.

The Axe Committee’s close ties to the Stanford football team are unmistakable. Members get to go on the field and interact with the players. They also have a secret lair known as the “Axe House.”

Fabian Valerio ’24 serves as the committee’s recruiting and social chair. He discovered the committee during a sophomore year activities fair and was immediately drawn to the infectious energy and vibrant spirit radiated by its members. 

“There are no downsides to joining Axe Comm!” Valerio said. Amid Big Game week and throughout the year, committee members are committed to embodying the essence of “Buck Ferkeley.”

An earlier version of this article included quotes from Axe Committee members who did not agree to speak on the record. Their quotes have been removed. The Daily regrets this error.

Charlotte Kearns '27 is an Arts & Life staff writer interested in theater and music performance. In her free time, she enjoys listening to early 2000s music and drinking matcha boba with her roommate.

Login or create an account