The trip to Berkeley is a vivid reminder of what awaits UW as it gets set to renovate Husky Stadium next year.
Every 87 years like clockwork, the University of California-Berkeley closes out a football stadium.
And when it does, the Washington Huskies are there to help say goodbye.
Saturday, the Huskies and Bears will play in the final game in Memorial Stadium before it undergoes a massive renovation, just as they also met on Nov. 17, 1923, in the final contest in that stadium’s predecessor, California Field.
The Huskies hope to be a little less gracious guest this time around, however.
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Washington lost that 1923 game by a score of 9-0 in the only loss for the Huskies in a season that culminated in Washington’s first Rose Bowl (and actually, UW’s first bowl game of any kind).
Cal moved a week later into Memorial Stadium, which since has become one of the most iconic college football venues on the West Coast, if not all of college football.
The setting — with the stadium nestled into the hills of Strawberry Canyon — won’t change as Cal is gutting the inside but will leave some of the outer structure intact, specifically the western facade, as well as preserving its bowl shape.
Cal is conducting a number of events Saturday to celebrate the renovation of the stadium, which was originally constructed for $1.4 million and intended as a tribute to Californians who gave their lives during World War I.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said this week that a key for the Huskies will be to “weather the emotion” of the celebrations of Memorial Stadium, as well as the fact that the Bears need to win to get to a bowl game.
The Huskies, though, may be among those sorry to see the old stadium go.
Washington has won 20 games at Memorial Stadium, as many as at any opposing Pac-10 venue (UW also won 20 at the old Stanford Stadium before it was renovated in 2006).
That includes a streak of 28 years of visits to Berkeley without a loss, from 1975 to 2003, a span during which Washington beat Cal 19 straight times.
The stretch included a couple of UW’s most memorable comebacks, including a rally from a 23-3 third-quarter deficit for a 24-23 win in 1993.
“That was the worst half of my career and the best half of my career all in one game,” remembered Damon Huard this week. He was UW’s quarterback that day and threw four interceptions early before tossing two late TD passes, sandwiched around an onside kick recovery, that gave the Huskies the win.
The trip to Berkeley is also a vivid reminder of what awaits UW as it gets set to renovate Husky Stadium next year.
While UW has set a price tag of $250 million for its renovation, Cal’s will cost $321 million.
In its announcement approving the renovation, Cal stated that the project “will address existing seismic safety issues, modernize game day facilities and services, and upgrade access for the disabled.” Capacity will also be reduced from 71,799 to 62,717 (UW intends to maintain a similar capacity to the current 72,500 at the renovated Husky Stadium).
The two schools are also differing a little in how they will pay for the projects.
Washington plans to raise $50 million over the next five years in private money and take out a loan for the rest, paying it off largely with revenues generated by the stadium, such as higher ticket prices and premium seating, as well as naming rights.
Cal, meanwhile, is attempting to pay for its renovation largely from an “Endowment Seating Program,” in which donors pay large sums of money to reserve the best seats for 40 to 50 years. The school reports it has sold roughly 2,000 ESP seats so far.
In a recent news release, the school stated that “approximately 2,250 seats must be committed by the summer of 2011 to make the financial model work — a goal that is well within reach.”
Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said the Huskies examined Cal’s funding plan but that “I like the way we are doing it. It just has a more proven track record.”
Similar to how UW will use Qwest Field in 2012 while Husky Stadium is renovated, Cal will play next season at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, in 2011 before returning to Memorial Stadium in 2012.
Washington, as seems fitting, is scheduled to play at Cal that season.
• The Huskies practiced Thursday morning before taking the rest of the day off for Thanksgiving. While many players were headed to their own homes, Sarkisian said 50 to 60 players and assistant coaches and families had been invited to his house for dinner, assuring everyone had someplace to go.
• G Ryan Tolar (knee) and S Sean Parker (shoulder) remain game-time decisions.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com