Traditions of Berkeley

Berkeley’s long and proud history has given rise to many traditions, rallies and rituals. Learn about the experiences that become a part of every Golden Bear’s time at Cal.

Rally member flying a Cal flag

Blue and Gold

The campus colors of blue and gold were chosen in 1873 – blue for the California sky and ocean and for the Yale graduates who helped establish the university, gold for the “Golden State.” The women of the classes suggested using both colors.

A cappela singers wearing black pants with gold vests standing together on a wood floor

A cappella singers “Fight for California”

Black and white photo of a rock with a plaque

Founders Rock

Trustees of the College of California stood on the north side of the campus near the corner of Hearst Avenue and Gayley Road on April 16, 1860, and dedicated the property as the future campus. A memorial tablet was placed on the stone in 1896.

Gold colored hillside looking down onto the campus

The Big “C”

The Big “C” in the hills above campus was built in 1905 by the 1907 and 1908 classes. Sophomores were responsible for keeping the C clean and painted gold. On the night before a Stanford game or coast championship, the C was guarded through the night.

Historic photo of fans holding cards from the bleachers

Card stunts

At the Big Game of 1914, colored cards supplied to Cal fans were held up in the rooting section according to direction to make a pattern. Over time card stunts became more elaborate, including the “Cal script,” in which a huge “Cal” appeared to be written.

Cal Band members on football field holding a Free Speech banner

Cal band performs for the Free Speech Movement anniversary

Front view of a grizzly bear

Golden Bears

In 1895 a 12-man track team became the first Cal team to compete outside the state. They carried banners with the state’s emblem, a grizzly bear, in gold. The athletes won several meets, and the Golden Bear became the mythical guardian of the university.

Historic black and white photo of Oski holding onto a pole


Beloved mascot Oski was named for a cheer that began, “Oski wow wow! Whiskey wee wee!” Originally, real bear cubs served as mascots, but their growth posed obvious problems. Oski as we know him debuted at a 1941 freshman rally.

Student sitting in a chair reading a paper

RRR week

In 1961 the students requested that the week before final exams become “Dead Week,” which we now refer to as Reading, Review and Recitation week. Quizzes, projects and activities are not scheduled to allow time to study and prepare for exams.

White text on black background the reads

Flashback: The Play (1982)

Large oak tree in front of Wheeler Hall

Wheeler Oak

The tree in front of the Wheeler Hall steps was a favorite meeting place for students between 1917 and 1934, when the oak had to be removed because of its age. The tree was so missed that another oak, and a bronze plaque, was planted in its place.

Black dog in fountain

Ludwig’s Fountain

Soon after the Student Union complex opened in 1960, the nearby fountain became the favorite spot of a German short-haired pointer named Ludwig. Ludwig spent every day in the fountain, and in 1961 it was named in his honor.

An axe chopping through a log

Big Game tree chopping rally

Bear mascot wearing gold sweater with a big C

Oski, the Cal mascot

Two people loading a cannon above football field

Victory Cannon

The Victory Cannon was donated by the class of 1964 in time for the 1963 football season. The gun appeared at all home games and was fired at the Big Game whenever the football team scored a touchdown or safety, kicked a field goal or won a game.

Green lawn in front of California Hall

Sophomore Lawn

Sophomore Lawn is the grass between California Hall and the Valley Life Sciences Building. Sophomore men would gather on the lawn to haze freshmen, who retaliated by burning their class numerals in the lawn at night. These days it’s a nice napping place.

Student touching a stone ball with Campanile in background

4.0 ball

The stone ball in front of the Campanile is more than a century old, but this tradition is much newer. Just a few years ago, students began referring to the sphere as the “4.0 ball.” Rubbing it before taking an exam is considered good luck.

Group of male students singing

Spirit songs

From sporting events to graduation, and every kind of event in-between, you’ll hear one of Cal’s spirit songs being sung. Sing it loud you Bears!

Cards held up in bleachers that spell out Cal

Cal Rally Committee