The beginning of the end is coming. I am not trying to sound cataclysmic, but when Cal football kicks off its Pac-12 schedule against Washington in two weeks, it will be the last foreseeable time that the Huskies and Bears play in conference.
Thanks to a series of unfortunate events in the Pac-12, topped off with Cal’s entry to the ACC beginning in 2024, each passing week after Sept. 23 will be a swan song to a litany of long-standing rivalries in Cal football and Cal Athletics at large.
And when the season comes to an end, I will have to say goodbye to the conference that has been my home as a sports fan for much of my life.
I am going to miss the battles between the Bears and the Bruins for public school supremacy. I am already missing the opportunity to play Colorado, whose biannual football slugfest came last year — well before its unexpected move to the Big 12.
For over a century, Cal stood tall as a founding member of the Pac-12 along with Oregon, Oregon State and Washington. This season, the old guard will say its last goodbyes as well, though I am sure Oregon State — one of two remaining Pac-12 schools — will have some choice words on its way out.
Of course, the end of Pac-12 After Dark will be one of the most devastating blows to me personally. I will never forget the questionable officiating, wild comebacks and primetime football experience as a fan on the west coast.
Namely, I will never forget the 2019 UCLA and Washington State matchup that featured an all-time offensive production and a lack of defense that would make the Big 12 blush. Over 1,300 yards of offense, 14 passing touchdowns and a 32-point second half comeback from UCLA was college football perfection — nothing may ever quite match it.
A lot of things in the Pac-12 have always been special to me. From stunning upsets in football to intense NCAA basketball tournament runs deep into March, it lived up to its reputation as the conference of champions time and time again. I can’t believe that all that century-long history will come to an end as each school will go its separate way in a matter of months.
Thankfully for Bay Area fans, with the two entering the ACC together, Cal and Stanford will continue to play for the Axe well into the future.
Of course, the sports fan in me is happy that Cal will now play big time teams like Florida State, North Carolina and Clemson on a regular basis. But I can’t help but shake the feeling that things will never be the same.
I think you can understand my apprehension. I mean, what are two teams that are a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean doing in the Atlantic Coast Conference?
It’s going to be hard to trade gamedays shared with traveling Pac-12 students for a scant visitors section and cramped watch parties with strange kickoff times — nevermind trying to organize a commute to any ACC team not named Stanford.
And I think this will be the same for a lot of students like me. Things will never be the same. But as we part ways with Huskies, Ducks, Utes and more, I am going to cherish every last second.
Welcome to the end.