If it weren’t for its nationally ranked football team, UC Berkeley might feel like UCLA’s nerdy older brother. The Pac-10 Golden Bears cultivate a strong sense of school spirit in the student body—past and present—and game days are weekend-long events that make the school feel cool. New students can sign up for free tickets, and everyone else knows that they’re definitely worth paying for. For those who don’t enjoy football, it’s hard to resist the free barbecue food and beer at almost every fraternity house, which line the route to the stadium, each blaring a different song and cheering for Cal as fans walk to the game. The annual Big Game with Stanford is the centerpiece of Cal’s athletic calendar. The campus comes alive with blue and gold pride, and there are events throughout the week before the game, ending in the West Coast’s largest bonfire rally. Although football and basketball are the only consistently crowded sporting events, the student body normally gets excited every time Cal plays its across-the-Bay rival.
As for intramurals, most IM teams are made of student organizations, although some students choose to walk on as free agents. Most sports have leagues for multiple experience levels, so new players do not have to play against more-seasoned athletes. At the most competitive levels, you’ll find all of the high school athletes who stopped playing school sports after getting to college. Translation: The teams are pretty good, which makes it a fun, once-a-week commitment for people who want solid competition. Cal club sports are a bit more competitive than intramural sports, and club athletes travel to compete against other colleges and universities at a competitive level. Cal STAR is another school-sponsored program that matches physically disabled students and adults with student volunteer trainers.