The Cal Band is unique among major college marching bands in being almost entirely student-run and independent of both the music and athletics departments. That independence has engendered intense pride among band members, who, due to a lack of funding, regularly pay out of pocket to travel to away games. As Ezra Carlsen writes in the latest issue of CALIFORNIA (See: Spirit on a Shoestring, p.42):
The fiscal reality has kept the Band at home on occasion, as in the first away game of 2008, when Cal met Washington State in Pullman. In the opening play of that game, Jahvid Best ran 80 yards for a Bears touchdown, a feat that should have been punctuated by a rousing rendition of “Fight for California.” Instead that TD and each scoring drive that followed (the final tally was 66–3, Cal) was met with relative silence. The lack of fanfare was so conspicuous that Joe Starkey, who called the game for KGO, was moved to inquire on-air as to the Band’s whereabouts.
It was the first game the Band, the “Pride of California,” had missed in more than a decade, but it wasn’t the last; in the past three seasons, the Band has missed five away games. Calonico says the hardest part of the decision to forgo road trips is telling the students. “We’re supposed to be the bringers of the California Spirit, and they buy into that. It means a lot to them.”