Big change for the Big Game: The date

The San Jose Mercury News couldn’t have put it better: This year’s Stanford-Cal game is at a “weird” time.

You don’t have to be an alumnus of either school — or even a college football fan for that matter — to know that the Big Game is typically played in late November.

It’s one of those traditions that spills into the rest of the Bay Area and makes non-sports enthusiasts take notice. Whether it’s with event-style traffic jams or with sports bars on both sides of the Bay bridge suddenly packed with patrons in Cardinals and Bears apparel.

What non-sports fans might not know is this is the first time in the Big Game’s history that it has ever, ever been played in the month of October. And due to a lack of scheduling flexibility in the Pac-12 this season, the school’s weren’t left with much better options.

Cal coach Jeff Tedford told the Merc:

“Traditions are not even thought of anymore.”

Ouch, could playing the long-standing rival game in October be that bad?

When you consider the game has been a mainstay since 1892 and has never been played in October, then yeah, we can see why that could have traditionalists a little ticked off.

Not to mention that the schools were only given two other scheduling options: Hold the game the Saturday before — or after — Thanksgiving.

Given the massive events that coincide with the Big Game, it would’ve been interrupted by the national holiday. Both schools panned the idea of playing around Thanksgiving, and had to settle with the October 20 time slot.

So why the limited flexibility in the schedule? The increased number of Thursday night games — which means more TV coverage — and the newly-instated conference championship game, which will take up the first weekend in December.

Deputy Pac-12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg told the Merc:

“The burden will be shared around the conference. Once a rivalry game has been impacted one time, it won’t come around again until others have been similarly impacted.”

Yeah, except for when the 2015 season rolls around — with fewer Saturdays on the calendar — and the Big Game is forced to be held in October again.