Cal Bears frolic in Viking Bowl | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Cal Bears frolic in Viking Bowl

Steve Yingling

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Cal Bears' head football coach Jeff Tedford walks among his players as they stretch before afternoon practice.

Big-time college athletics came to South Lake Tahoe on Saturday as the nationally ranked California Golden Bears’ football team rolled into town in five luxury buses.

A semitruck preceded the 13th-ranked Bears by several hours, bringing all of the equipment the team would need for the afternoon practice in Viking Bowl.

Coaches, players and support personnel arrived later than scheduled, delaying practice by two hours. But for the fans who stuck around, they weren’t disappointed.

“For me it was more curiosity than anything,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Mike Taylor, who played second base for the Golden Bears’ baseball team in the mid-1960s. “It looked like a football factory. When those air horns went off, guys were off to the next drill and there was zero time wasted.”

As the Golden Bears converged between the goal posts, a Cal alum played the school fight song on a trumpet.

But once the music stopped, coach Jeff Tedford put one of Cal’s most-hyped team in the past five decades through a rigorous workout.

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“It was a very intense, very uptempo practice,” said South Tahoe High Athletic Director Don Borges. “They showed they are in such good condition because they didn’t have any problems (at altitude).”

According to Borges, the Golden Bears practiced at STHS to simulate conditions for their Sept. 4 high-altitude season opener at Air Force.

Borges marvelled at the Bears’ large-scale operation – from dropping off two five-foot-high pallets of ice for one practice to reports that the team spends more on athletic shoes ($95,000) than the Vikings use on transportation ($60,000).

“It was impressive to see the amount of people it takes to run a program like that,” Borges said.

The late start enabled the Vikings’ varsity and JV squads to return from scrimmages in Truckee to see the final 90 minutes of Cal’s practice.

Cal paid a nominal fee to the school district for use of the field. Borges hopes to redirect that money toward Support South Tahoe Athletic Teams.

“It’s not going to make a dent on that thermometer in front of the school district,” said Borges, concerning the $200,000 the community is raising to fund school sports for 2004-05. “We can’t make a profit from them coming here.”

Borges is encouraged that the Bears may return in the future.

“I think they accomplished what they wanted to and I told them to give us a call if they are interested in coming back,” Borges said.

Cal’s coaches also told Borges that they’d welcome talking football with Viking coaches during an offseason meeting.

Before rolling out of town, the Golden Bears made one Kentucky Fried Chicken store owner ecstatic by purchasing 150 dinners.