The Big C on Charter Hill

Give me a (concrete) C!

On our rugged eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold, 
Big C means to fight and strive
And win for blue and gold.

— Excerpt from the song “Big C,” written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams and N. Loyall McLaren

It’s hard to miss the Big C guarding campus from atop Charter Hill behind Memorial Stadium. The giant concrete letter was built in 1905 by the Classes of 1907 and 1908 and has become a bright symbol of Cal’s academic and athletic excellence.

Soon after Cal’s founding, a tradition called “class rush” began in which the freshmen would run up to mark their class numerals in the hillside, and the sophomores would roll them back down in an attempt to protect the land. When the university banned the dangerous tradition, the classes came together to construct the C. It was painted gold, one of the university’s colors.

For decades, sophomores were responsible for repainting the C and protecting it from the pranks of our athletic opponents, particularly Stanford students who tried to paint it red before the Big Game! Today, the Rally Committee is its official guardian — and hiking up the hill to catch the sunset and breathtaking views is on the bucket list for most students before they graduate. 

Listen to "Big C," played by the Cal Band, and other songs.

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