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Pac-12 fines Cal for fans rushing the field after dismissing air quality concerns

Fans and student-athletes should suck down unsafe air, but should not rush the field. Priorities and such.

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With the North Bay fires raging (Born and raised in Santa Rosa, but please don’t hold that place responsible for why I’m such a shitty person.), all eyes were on the air quality to see if it would be safe for fans to sit in for four hours and for student-athletes to heavily exert themselves when the California Golden Bears played the Washington State Cougars. The game went on as proceeded, but Rusty Simmons of the SF Chronicle reported after the game that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District were adamantly opposed to the game taking place, but their protests fell upon deaf ears.

Officials at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said Monday that the game took place when particle pollution exceeded a standard set by federal regulators. Some fans wore masks amid the haze, which was caused by the Wine Country wildfires.

“Staff sort of had a disagreement, I’ll say that nicely, with Cal,” Karen Mitchoff, a director at the air district, said at a meeting of the district’s executive committee Monday.

The issue relates to the presence of particles that measure up to 2.5 microns—0.0001 inches—in diameter. These tiny particles can lodge in the lungs and cause short- and long-term health problems, ranging from coughing and asthma to increased risk of heart attacks.

Since 2006, the federal standard for the 24-hour average levels of those particles has been 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The day of the Bears-Cougars game measured 48.5 micrograms per cubic meter in Berkeley, according to Lisa Fasano, an air district spokeswoman.

The decision to move forward with the game was made by Cal Athletics, Washington State Athletics, and the Pac-12 Conference. These three bodies made the decision based on the air quality index (AQI) at the time, rather than the federal policy of using a rolling 24-hour average.

The Pac-12’s head of communications made it clear that the decision to play the game was made with the “health and safety” of the fans and student-athletes in mind, even though they made the decision when the AQI was “unhealthy” at the time.

But the Pac-12 took action in another way that’s all for safety. It’s totally safe for players, staff, and fans to sit in those conditions, but the fans should not stand on the field. Because Cal fans rushed the field within 60 seconds of the final whistle, Cal has been fined $25,000 by the Pac-12.

The Arizona State Sun Devils—who also enjoyed a big upset win—will not be fined because their fans waited 60 seconds before taking to the field.

So, let this be a lesson to all Cal fans. The next time there’s a big win, please stay in your seats breathing unsafe air for at least 61 seconds before taking the field.

Alternatively, RB Tre Watson has another solution in mind.