In any other part of the country, the Stanford Cardinal’s 100-plus NCAA championships would be a remarkable feat. However, since the university in Palo Alto hails from the same golden realm as UCLA, it is forever cast in the role of supporting actor. Not that Stanford fans mind. With a streak of more than 30 straight years of at least one title and a sterling decades-long reign at the top of the Director’s Cup standings, Cardinal supporters are fine with doing their own thing. Just look at how far it’s gotten them.
Stanford has enjoyed success on almost every playing surface, earning titles in tennis, water polo, gymnastics and cross country, among others. No one questions the university’s championship clout, but the moniker does raise a few eyebrows. Up until 1972, Stanford used the nickname “Indians,” but after concerns were raised, they decided to drop it altogether. The regal red that adorns their uniforms became their official name in 1981, and true to form, Cardinal athletics haven’t missed a beat since.
Almost as renowned as any team on campus, the members of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band are a celebrated force in their own right. While they don’t move in formation like most other outfits, the LSJUMB made their mark by crafting clever arrangements that lift fans out of their seats. Since 1972, their calling card has been a spirited rendition of “All Right Now,” the classic rock chart-topper originally performed by the band Free. In 1982, the LSJUMB played their way into NCAA lore when they inadvertently took the field during “The Play” against Cal-Berkeley. Not even the presence of the marching band could stop the Golden Bears from reaching the end zone though.
While the 1982 tilt is referred to as “The Play,” every gridiron meeting between Stanford and Cal is known as the “Big Game.” The two schools have been bitter rivals since 1892, and each year, they square off in an attempt to take home “The Axe,” which is, well, an axe that goes to the winning school. Over the last decade, Cardinal football has begun to emerge as one of the nation’s strongest programs. Despite having competed on the gridiron since 1891 and grabbing a national title in 1926, Stanford posted their highest win total in history during the 2010 season with 12 victories, and followed that up by reaching at least 11 Ws in ‘11, ‘12 and ‘13.
It’s not uncommon for Cardinal athletes to move on from Palo Alto and earn top honors at the next level in the sports world. Swimmer Summer Sanders captured two gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, while tennis player John McEnroe took seven Grand Slam titles. Golfer Tiger Woods has won countless major tournaments, and quarterback John Elway nabbed two Super Bowl trophies during his Hall of Fame career. With such tremendous triumphs across the board, it’s no wonder that Stanford calls itself “the home of champions.”