This Saturday, flashes of red and blue will trail behind the players of the most anticipated, prestigious and infamous collegiate brawl of the Bay: the Ink Bowl.
As Stanford’s fountains turn red in preparation for Big Game against Cal on Saturday, The Stanford Daily and the Daily Californian are preparing for their own on-field tradition dating back to 1952. The Ink Bowl contests the athletic prowess of the two rivaling universities’ independent newspapers through a flag football game.
The prize? An X-Acto knife that has comfortably called The Stanford Daily home for the past two years. Just like the well-known Axe fought for on the big screen, the blade holds a longstanding time-honored tradition in each school’s history.
Accompanied by decades of old Daily newspaper clippings and propped up on a wooden plaque, the Knife now hangs proudly at The Stanford Daily house — a far cry from the soul-crushing newsroom the Daily Cal once relegated the accolade to three years ago.
After a 45-25 point win last year, The Stanford Daily aims to triumph over the Daily Californian once again.
Current sports managing editor, Ink Bowl organizer and first-time player Kaushik Sampath ’25 highlights the significant work that needs to be done to ensure a successful Ink Bowl.
“You will look at flag football and then say, ‘Oh, this isn’t a very serious thing, this isn’t a serious event that takes a lot of time,’” Sampath said. “But, in reality, it takes a lot to coordinate.”
Sampath described responsibilities of both teams contributing to the logistical organization of Ink Bowl. Factors included being mindful of writers’ obligations and time allotments for Big Game, coordinating with KZSU, Stanford University’s FM radio station, on broadcasting their coverage of Ink Bowl and ensuring adherence to flag football rules.
The Stanford Daily team has practiced routinely on the weekends leading up to the game, a crucial step in safeguarding the Knife’s home. The Daily’s team this year is diverse, consisting of a set of players from sections across the newspaper, presenting a unique, yet rewarding challenge for the team.
“People who haven’t really played flag football before still want to participate … I definitely want to give them that opportunity to practice and see what it’s like to just play football,” Sampath said.
While the Axe may currently be claimed by Cal, The Stanford Daily is confident that the Knife will remain on the Farm.
“We have a lot of players back from last year’s team who will be playing, who will lead us to this victory,” Sampath said. “We have people who can create plays and have good football minds.”
One of these key players is former sports managing editor and repeat Ink Bowl player Ells Boone ’24. For him, Ink Bowl is not just about flag football.
“My mentality and goal is to win. We need the three-peat,” Boone wrote. “I want to graduate from Stanford never having lost Ink Bowl.”
Boone, a veteran of the game, participated in the crushing defeat of the Daily Cal last year. He credits “the psychological advantage over Cal having won two [Ink Bowls] in a row,” as a strength in the annual game.
What does a win for The Stanford Daily mean for the Cardinal football team? Well, we can find that answer in a tale that a Stanford Daily article from 1969 prophesized.
“The school that wins The Ink Bowl loses Big Game,” wrote 1969 Stanford Daily writer Fred Mann ’72. But with similar losing records between the Cardinal and the Golden Bears in the Pac-12, it may not hurt seeing Cal lose at the Ink Bowl.
The battle of The Dailys will commence at 11 a.m. on Roble Field, officiated by one referee from each respective newspaper’s team.
“They take home the Axe, but we’re gonna be taking home the Knife this year, so let’s do it,” Sampath said.