BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Soaring pollution levels forced University of California-Berkeley officials to postpone Saturday’s Big Game showdown with Stanford until Dec. 1.

The last time the Big Game was postponed was the weekend following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

On Friday, UC-Berkeley officials monitored the air quality index forecast before deciding the levels unhealthy smoky haze draped over the Bay Area from the Camp Fire was just too high.

By 1 p.m. Friday, the AQI (Air Quality Index) for the Berkeley area hovered at 260 and was expected to soar even higher. A reading of 200 is considered high enough for the NFL to cancel a game.

Smoky air as seen at California Memorial Stadium on the UC Berkeley campus, November 16, 2016. (CBS)

“We have been carefully tracking air quality in Berkeley and the Bay Area over the past week, relying on the best data and guidance available to us from medical and environmental experts,” said Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton in a news release. “The forecasts we have received show a minimal chance of the improvement necessary to hold the game on Saturday.”

“While we would have preferred to play the Big Game on its scheduled date, once we realized that air quality would likely not return to acceptable levels, we made the decision to postpone for the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, gameday staff, students, band and spirit groups, alumni and fans.”

Knowlton said game officials wants to make sure the Big Game experience was not tempered by the air conditions.

“So much of the Big Game experience includes the parties and tailgates with friends and family before and after the game with football as the centerpiece of a full day of celebration,” he said. “While we used NCAA and Pac-12 air quality guidelines to help steer our decision, the well-being of our fans was also a key factor. We are fortunate that Cal and Stanford have an open date that works for both teams, and we are looking forward to hosting the Cardinal in two weeks.”

Students were disappointed, but not surprised.

“No!! They rescheduled it. Cause I even got off work for that day and, like, now they cancelled it. So I’m, like, really sad about it but,” said Cal student Olivia Gonzales Britt.

“It’s a bummer, but we understand,” said visiting student Connor Ahearn.

“I think people should not be exercising. You can’t really put that pressure on the players,” said Cal student John Herreros.

Bob Guletz is a Cal season ticket holder. He and a half dozen friends were planning a big weekend.

“We’ll have to make do the best we can. We’ll drink indoor beer,” said Guletz. “We can’t drink it outdoors if the game is cancelled.”

On Thursday night, UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ canceled classes for Thursday evening and all day on Friday. A men’s basketball contest against the University of Detroit Mercy was cancelled Thursday night after the air in the Haas Pavilion became smoky.

“So long as the northern California fires continue to burn we will continue to monitor developments, make decisions based on the best possible data and expert advice, and keep the campus community informed with daily updates,” Christ said in a news release.


Aside from the Big Game, Stanford also announced a number of changes to its weekend sports schedule.

The NCAA Women’s soccer first-round tournament games scheduled for the Palo Alto campus were moved to Robobank Stadium in Salinas. Hofstra will take on Wisconsin in one first-round game and Stanford will follow squaring off against Mississippi on Friday night.

The men’s Friday night basketball game against Wofford has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The same will hold for Sunday’s women’s game against Ohio State.

The smoky air also raised havoc with other sports schedules throughout the region.

The annual showdown between geographical rivals UC Davis and Sacramento State was moved from Davis to McKay Stadium in Reno, Nev.

At the University of San Francisco a Friday night men’s basketball game against Arizona State was also cancelled.

Across the Bay Area, the unhealthy air has completely disturbed the high school football playoffs. Games were postponed last week and the air could force the contests to again be delayed.

The North Coast Section floated a controversial contingency plan this week to stage a coin to decide its football champions.

“Schools, coaches, student-athletes, officials, fans, parents, and yes the NCS staff, are frustrated,” NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon wrote in an open letter Friday. “Everyone is on edge. We are not used to the discomfort of not knowing, delays, and the fear of the unknown have a way of making all feel uneasy.”

“However, lets not forget in that the NCS Championships are contests, not life and death. Let’s not forget that over 65 people in the community of Paradise and the surrounding communities lost their lives.”

Meanwhile, the Central Coast Section has a plan in place to move its quarterfinal games to five sites at the Southern end of the section.

All but one of CCS’s remaining 15 quarterfinal games are slated for Friday, but if the AQI numbers stay too high or rise, the section will play five tripleheaders at high schools in the Salinas-Monterey area.