The official university mascot is Oski the Bear, who debuted in 1941. Previously, live bear cubs were used as mascots at Memorial Stadium. It was decided in 1940 that a costumed mascot would be a better alternative to a live bear. Named after the Oski-wow-wow yell, he is cared for by the Oski Committee, whose members have exclusive knowledge of the identity of the costume-wearer.
The University of California Marching Band, which has served the university since 1891, performs at every home football game and at select road games as well. A smaller subset of the Cal Band, the Straw Hat Band, performs at basketball games, volleyball games, and other campus and community events.
The UC Rally Committee, formed in 1901, is the official guardian of California’s Spirit and Traditions. Wearing their traditional blue and gold rugbies, Rally Committee members can be seen at all major sporting and spirit events. Committee members are charged with the maintenance of the five Cal flags, the large California banner overhanging the Memorial Stadium Student Section and Haas Pavilion, the California Victory Cannon, Card Stunts and The Big “C” among other duties. The Rally Committee is also responsible for safekeeping of the Stanford Axe when it is in Cal’s possession. The Chairman of the Rally Committee holds the title “Custodian of the Axe” while it is in the Committee’s care.
Overlooking the main Berkeley campus from the foothills in the east, The Big “C” is an important symbol of California school spirit. The Big “C” has its roots in an early 20th-century campus event called “Rush,” which pitted the freshman and sophomore classes against each other in a race up Charter Hill that often developed into a wrestling match. It was eventually decided to discontinue Rush and, in 1905, the freshman and sophomore classes banded together in a show of unity to build the Big “C”. Owing to its prominent position, the Big “C” is often the target of pranks by rival Stanford University students who paint the Big “C” red and also fraternities and sororities who paint it their organization’s colors. One of the Rally Committee’s functions is to repaint the Big “C” to its traditional color of King Alfred Yellow.
Cal students invented the college football tradition of card stunts. Then known as Bleacher Stunts, they were first performed during the 1910 Big Game and consisted of two stunts: a picture of the Stanford Axe and a large blue “C” on a white background. The tradition continues today in the Cal student section and incorporates complicated motions, for example tracing the Cal script logo on a blue background with an imaginary yellow pen.
The California Victory Cannon, placed on Tightwad Hill overlooking the stadium, is fired before every football home game, after every score, and after every Cal victory. First used in the 1963 Big Game, it was originally placed on the sidelines before moving to Tightwad Hill in 1971. The only time the cannon ran out of ammunition was during a game against Pacific in 1991, when Cal scored 12 touchdowns.
Other traditions have included events that span only a few years. William (or Willie) the Polka Dot Man was a performance artist who frequented Sproul Plaza during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Naked Guy (now deceased) and Larry the Drummer, who performed Batman tunes, appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
A few current traditions include streaking during finals week in the Main Stacks, the Happy Happy Man, and Stoney Burke.