Cal Has Worst Football Team; Will Soon Have Worst Name, Too

Cal's Memorial Stadium will keep its name. But the playing field will be known starting next fall as Kabam Field under a naming-rights deal with a San Francisco videogame maker.
Cal’s Memorial Stadium will keep its name. But the playing field will be known starting next fall as Kabam Field under a naming-rights deal with a San Francisco videogame maker.

Give credit to the people overseeing the football program at UC Berkeley. They’re not satisfied with having one of the worst teams in the nation, a squad that won just one — one! — of its 12 games this year. They’re not content with a program whose past academic performance makes a travesty of Cal’s reputation as one of the best public universities in the United States. They’re not even happy having embarked on a shaky funding scheme to finance Memorial Stadium’s $320 million renovation.

Now, Cal’s buffing up the football program’s luster by awarding naming rights for the gridiron where the Golden Bears suffered humiliation after humiliation this year. Since there’s no money in naming the field for one of the team’s great figures of the past — Pappy Waldorf, who got Cal to the Rose Bowl three times, say, or Joe Roth, the star quarterback cut down by cancer in the ’70s — the university is striking a deal with San Francisco-based videogame maker Kabam.

Starting next fall, the Bears’ home turf will be called “Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.”

I am not much of a gamer myself, not having touched a controller since the early days of “Goldeneye,” but I am sure Kabam’s titles are top notch. For instance, “The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age,” which invites us to “wage an epic war in Middle-earth.” And given the money involved, the company. The 15-year deal is worth $18 million.

SBNation’s California Golden Blogs has the lowdown on Kabam and its connection to Berkeley:

Kabam is raising its 2013 revenue forecast by about 8 percent to $325 million as recent hits like “Dragons of Atlantis” beat expectations and its publishing business for other developers’ games is taking off, Chief Executive Kevin Chou said.

Kabam, which is considering going public, expects to be profitable this year, with revenue up 80 percent from 2012, the former Silicon Valley venture capitalist and investment bank analyst said in an interview late on Tuesday.

Kabam … will also be establishing a scholarship program, library donations, internships, as well as executive exchanges, an “innovation lab” for developing projects, and an interactive gaming zone at the stadium.

In exchange for its $18 million, the company will get to emblazon its name on the two 25-yard lines and have signage on the 50-yard line and elsewhere in the stadium. So next fall, in addition to wondering how many teams Cal will hold under 50 points, we can look forward to seeing the legend “Kabam Field” on Cal’s artificial grass.

Kabam Field? Kabam Field? Really?

I mean, we’ve seen some bad names. Houston’s Enron Field, for instance. More locally, we have the extraordinarily uneuphonic O-dot-Co Coliseum. We’ve had Monster Park, which is only the second-worst official name hung on the soon-to-be-vacated Candlestick Park (what could have been worse? Try “3Com Park at Candlestick Point”).

But Kabam Field?

Well, maybe it will grow on me. I can imagine future crowds at Memorial Stadium yelling “Kabam!” in unison when the Golden Bears sack an opposing quarterback. Or maybe visiting fans will chant it when a Bears player suffers a pratfall. And the name is better than some of the other names one thinks of for Cal’s football home: “Doh! Field” comes to mind.

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  • Arturo

    Really Dan? The worst name? What corporate sponsorship ever made a stadium name better? At least in the context of football, “Kabam” makes some sense.

    • Dan Brekke

      I think if you wanted something that really speaks to the (current) experience of Cal football, “Underachiever Field” or “Highly Leveraged Stadium” would get at the essence a little more effectively.

      • Arturo

        That may be true, but hey, it’s a 15 year contract. We can always hope for some improvement!

        • Dan Brekke

          Optimism is a good thing.

  • jb

    Another colossal embarrassment on Sandy B’s watch. Just when you think it can’t get worse. How she has not been released is beyond me.

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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