Click photo to enlarge
The Stanford team celebrates with the Axe after winning the "Big Game" against Cal 48 to 14 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2010. (Doug Duran/Staff)

Cal and Stanford fans have grown accustomed to the Big Game not being on the final weekend of the regular season.

But starting in 2012, it could get moved to early November, or even October.

Every natural rivalry in the Pac-12 is at risk of being moved because of increased restrictions on the conference schedule. League officials hope to mitigate the slap in tradition's face, with only one or two rivalry games moving in any season.

"Given the complexities of the scheduling," Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg said, "we can't commit to having the rivalry games stay on Thanksgiving week or the weekend before Thanksgiving."

Weiberg added that the conference will make every attempt to "keep the (rivalry) games in the last half of the season."

Depending on the number of Saturdays in the fall, there may be some years in which all six rivalry games can be scheduled for late November.

But 2012 is not one of them: At least one will move, and multiple sources said the Big Game is a distinct possibility.

Officials from Cal and Stanford declined to comment, and Weiberg would not discuss specifics because the schedule hasn't been finalized.

"It doesn't all fit together in a neat and tidy package, so that all the rivalries can be slotted in the final two weeks," Weiberg said. "Our preference is to keep them as (late) as we can. But it's very likely that at least one will have to move up."

There are several issues at play when it comes to the football schedule in 2012 and beyond:


Advertisement

  • The Pac-12 championship game now occupies the first weekend in December, thereby eating up a Saturday that had been used by some schools for their 12th regular-season game.

  • Stanford and USC playing Notre Dame (in alternating years) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

  • The reluctance on the part of some schools to play rivalry games on Thanksgiving weekend.

  • The increase in the number of Thursday games, which require the participants to have a bye the previous weekend.

    Starting next season, when the $3 billion deal the Pac-12 has with ESPN and Fox kicks in, the conference will have four Thursday and four Friday games.

    The Friday games don't require a bye the previous week.

    Combine all those issues in years when the calendar reduces the number of available Saturdays, and something has to give.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.