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California goes back-to-back without Super Bowl appearances for the first time in over 50 years

A less-than-ideal accomplishment for the Bears in the Pros coincides with our struggles at Memorial Stadium.

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
Joe Kapp was among three Bears to first represent California in the Super Bowl
Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the struggles of the California Golden Bears to be ranked or relevant in college football, we’ve had a puzzlingly rich history of success in the NFL. For instance, for the 21 NFL seasons from 1999–2019, 14 of those Super Bowls featured a Golden Bear on the winning team (two-thirds!). In that same timespan (which should be very generous for California as it features Jeff Tedford’s tenure as our all-time winningest head coach and cuts off Justin Wilcox at his peak performance in the Ripblix Bowl), we’re a perfectly bland 129–130 (which actually includes four wins from Tom Holmoe in the 1999 season that were vacated).

But, I digress. (After all, I’m quite rusty on writing and no longer familiar with how to present a cogent message.)

The Bears have been quite successful recently in Super Bowl–y things! Here’s a snippet from two years ago from when we last had a Bear—Mitchell Schwartz—playing in the Not–As–Big–As–The Big Game where we were in the midst of a streak in which 20 of the past 21 Super Bowls featured a Bear on the roster or on the coaching staff of at least one team. Little did we know at the time that this would be the end of the streak.

California has officially gone two consecutive Super Bowls without a representative.

This got my curiosity going and I started to wonder when is the last time we went back-to-back without a Super Bowl appearance. I figured there had to be something not too far back, right? I almost got tricked into thinking it was Super Bowls XXXIII and XXXIV—until I caught former California head coach, former California player, and Berkeley native Mike White was an offensive assistant in Super Bowl XXXIV for the 1999 St. Louis Rams, making him a Super Bowl champion.

Mike White - Illinois Fighting Illini
Mike White from his time as head coach of Illinois (1980–1987), which was sandwiched between his time as California head coach and his year as a Super Bowl–winning offensive assistant (1999 season).

By my research (with a big help from the utterly infallible Wikipedia and, I think you have to go back to the beginning of time for the last time Cal failed his miserably. Or at least back to the beginning of the Super Bowl.

I can’t find any records of a Golden Bear on the rosters of the teams in any of the first three Super Bowls. Records from back then are shoddy, so it’s possible that a reserve player was a Bear who didn’t persist on rosters available today. Or maybe a Bear got cut before the final roster and wasn’t listed in modern records. Or maybe a coach (or assistant coach or assistant), which weren’t easily findable—let alone easy to search for alma mater.

The Bears started appearing in the Super Bowl in the 1969 season (Super Bowl IV) and missed a game here and there, but never missed consecutive games until Super Bowls LVI and LVII. In all, there seems to be been nine games without a California representative. We started with three misses and currently have two misses, so there were four single games without a Bear somewhere in between.

The California Golden Bears in the Super Bowl

Season Super Bowl Cal Super Bowl champions Cal Super Bowl defeat
Season Super Bowl Cal Super Bowl champions Cal Super Bowl defeat
1966 I
1967 II
1968 III
1969 IV Minnesota Vikings: John Beasley, Joe Kapp, Ed White
1970 V Dallas Cowboys: Craig Morton
1971 VI Dallas Cowboys: Craig Morton
1972 VII
1973 VIII Minnesota Vikings: John Beasley, Ed White
1974 IX Pittsburgh Steelers: Loren Toews Minnesota Vikings: Ed White
1975 X Pittsburgh Steelers: Loren Toews
1976 XI Minnesota Vikings: Ed White
1977 XII Denver Broncos: Craig Morton, Bob Swenson
1978 XIII Pittsburgh Steelers: Loren Toews
1979 XIV Pittsburgh Steelers: Loren Toews
1980 XV Oakland Raiders: Jeff Barnes
1981 XVI San Francisco 49ers: Matt Bouza, Ray Wersching Cincinnati Bengals: Jim Breech
1982 XVII Miami Dolphins: Joe Rose
1983 XVIII Los Angeles Raiders: Jeff Barnes
1984 XIX San Francisco 49ers: Ray Wersching Miami Dolphins: Joe Rose
1985 XX Chicago Bears: Ron Rivera
1986 XXI New York Giants: Joe Cooper
1987 XXII Denver Broncos: Keith Kartz, Tim Lucas
1988 XXIII Cincinnati Bengals: Jim Breech
1989 XXIV San Francisco 49ers: Steve Hendrickson Denver Broncos: Keith Kartz, Tim Lucas
1990 XXV New York Giants: Doug Riesenberg Buffalo Bills: Gale Gilbert
1991 XXVI Washington 'Skins: Sidney Johnson Buffalo Bills: Gale Gilbert
1992 XXVII Buffalo Bills: Gale Gilbert
1993 XXVIII Buffalo Bills: Gale Gilbert
1994 XXIX San Francisco 49ers: Doug Brien, Rhett Hall, Gary Plummer San Diego Chargers: David Binn, Gale Gilbert, Steve Hendrickson
1995 XXX
1996 XXXI New England Patriots: Ferric Collons
1997 XXXII Green Bay Packers: Ryan Longwell
1999 XXXIV St. Louis Rams: OA Mike White
2000 XXXV New York Giants: Jeremiah Parker
2001 XXXVI New England Patriots: Je'Rod Cherry
2002 XXXVII Oakland Raiders: Langston Walker
2003 XXXVIII New England Patriots: Tully Banta-Cain, Je'Rod Cherry
2004 XXXIX New England Patriots: Tully Banta-Cain, Je'Rod Cherry
2005 XL Pittsburgh Steelers: Chidi Iwuoma
2006 XLI Indianapolis Colts: Matt Giordano Chicago Bears: DC Ron Rivera
2007 XLII New England Patriots: Ryan O'Callaghan
2008 XLIII Arizona Cardinals: JJ Arrington
2009 XLIV New Orleans Saints: Scott Fujita
2010 XLV Green Bay Packers: Desmond Bishop, Aaron Rodgers
2011 XLVI New England Patriots: Shane Vereen
2012 XLVII
2013 XLVIII Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch Denver Broncos: CJ Anderson
2014 XLIX New England Patriots: Shane Vereen Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch
2015 50 Denver Broncos: CJ Anderson Carolina Panthers: HC Ron Rivera, asst. coach Richard Rodgers
2016 LI Atlanta Falcons: Alex Mack
2017 LII Philadelphia Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Bryce Treggs
2018 LIII New England Patriots: Stephen Anderson, Brian Schwenke Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, C.J. Anderson
2019 LIV Kansas City Chiefs: Mitchell Schwartz
2020 LV Kansas City Chiefs: Mitchell Schwartz
2021 LVI
2022 LVII
The California Golden Bears and the game that isn’t The Big Game Me! And Wikipedia and StatMuse.

With a potential of four quarterbacks in league next year, a strong corps of talented contributors holding strong from the Tedford era, and a recent influx of defensive talent, let’s hope that we get back in the Super Bowl next year.