Interview With Coach Joe Kapp
- Version 3.0.2 (July 1995) (In the Bancroft Library Archives)
- Joe Kapp, Quarterback, Basketball player, Football Coach 1982-86
- Dan Cheatham, Drum Major, 1957;
- Marched in the Rose Bowl 1959, when Joe quarterbacked the team
- Date of Interview:
- May 3, 1994
- Joe’s Office in Sunnyvale, California
- Barbara Gabler
- [Cheatham edited his own remarks for clarity and grammar in August 1994. Joe Kapp edited his own remarks for clarity and grammar September 1994. We both subsequently did a second edit.]
- [Editorial notes are attributed thus:
- Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham - NHC]
Keywords: First memories of the campus, random memories of Band/Athletic interactions, memories of Memorial Stadium, attitude of athletes, bonfire rallies, being coach at Cal, Neil Lucas
Cheatham: Would you give us a brief self-introduction?
Kapp: I’m Joe Kapp. I first came to visit the University of California in 1950 as a young student. While I was growing up in Salinas, California, our seventh grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Brunelli, a Cal graduate, brought our class up to Berkeley for a visit and I fell in love with the University at that exact moment. We went to a Cal football game of course, and I was hooked forever. Later I played football for Coach Pappy Waldorf and I graduated in 1959 after having the thrill of playing in the Rose Bowl. I then had the special opportunity to come back to the campus as the Football Coach in 1982 through 1986.
Cheatham: When did you first become aware there was such a thing as the Cal Band?
Kapp: It was on that same field trip with Ms. Brunelli. She was a Golden Bear [I.e., a Cal rooter. NHC] through and through and she was a great teacher. She had an enthusiasm for learning and love of life. We parked down near Shattuck Avenue and walked up through the campus to Strawberry Canyon. We saw the Campanile, Life Sciences Building, other great buildings, and trees. [In those days there were fewer buildings on campus and there was more open space than there is now. It is no wonder that Coach Kapp remembers the trees. That memory is consistent with my own first impressions of the campus in the late 1940’s. NHC] After all these years I remember that it was not only just the look of it, the size of it, the feel of it, the smell of it, but the sound of it too.
I don’t know when we started hearing it but the sound of the Band was in the air too, and by the time we culminated our walk and entered Memorial Stadium, there it was, the Cal Band. From that time on I’ve felt the Cal Band is a vital, and important element of college life. The Cal Band team, as much as the football team...for sure they are a team too... is important in promoting that spirit and that unity that makes for the special and unique California Experience.
I grew up in Salinas and I can recall my fellow student, Everett Alvarez and I trying out for sports but we also tried out for the band. We stood in line to get our instruments. In those days the public schools provided instruments. He got the last trumpet and I got the sousaphone. It was kind of hard to carry that sousaphone around or to take it home to practice on, compared to the trumpet, but I always felt maybe if I hadn’t made it as a quarterback, I could have played in the Cal Band as a sousaphone player. So,I’ve had the experience of being in a band and how it requires the same kind of responsibilities a football player has on the football field.
I also played basketball at Cal, which is an experience with a different sort of Cal Band - the Straw Hat Band. The experience with that band is a close-in one. Given the layout of Harmon Gym everyone gets close together when the Straw Hat Band gets rolling.
Even to this day, at my age, I feel like I’m still learning how to play an instrument and how to be part of a team. Maybe, after all these years, my problem is I try to play too many instruments. But, the point is, that by being part of the Band or the football team, we were actually involved in the Cal spirit and enthusiasm all of the time. Work and effort was what I think we fell in love with about Cal.
Cheatham: Did you know early on that you were going to be a student at Cal rather than some other university?
Kapp: In the playgrounds...when you are growing up...you choose up sides when you play games. As a young student athlete, you choose up sides to go to a University. I chose Cal. Obviously the sports, the basketball, the football, Memorial Stadium and all that...and the Band as much as anything else...had a lot to do with it, but of course the great University of California education and all that goes with it was important too.
Cal has the best band in the land. I’ve said it for years and it wasn’t just me, everybody else agreed. It was part of the Cal experience. It was the spirit. It was in the air. The Cal songs, the Band, the music, the words to the songs. All of it. It’s rich. It’s very rich.
In my home and family there was always songs in the air, whether it was the top tunes or...we listened to all kinds of music. It was an important part of our life. My mother is Mexican/American, so mariachi and Spanish music has been part of our life. Then, growing up in Salinas where country music was common... Johnny Cash [A singer of country-western music. NHC] would come to town in the old days. So, we learned that kind of music too. Coming to Berkeley in the fifties, we learned about modern jazz over on Broadway in San Francisco. Music was a very important part of our lives.
One of my first Cal recollections involved Juan Valencia, a Cal graduate student who worked with some of the athletes as a language tutor. He sang opera and taught us an appreciation for classical music. So, music was part our education and not just the music, but the people who brought it to us.
You go to a game on Saturday and whether the Band is playing at the time or not, the pulse is there. Whether it’s the bass drum or the sousaphone or the high notes or the low notes, the Cal Band is there. I learned a long time ago that the Band comes early and stays late. They are there before the game. And win or lose, rain or shine, they’re with us there at the end of the game too.
That was my memory as a player, as a student, and then as an alum coming back to campus from time to time. And, it was one of my most important reasons for coming back as coach in 1982. We needed a good healthy dose of Cal spirit. We considered [Cal Band Director] Bob Briggs as vital to our staff, in terms of bringing to the team what the Cal experience was about.
Band members [I think he is referring to small, spontaneous, Hit Bands. NHC] were invited at any time to any of our team functions. If we could, we’d even let them in our huddle...except of course, at the public institution, our band knows the rules of the game, and we know when to party. [This is a sly, side remark about the private institution, Stanford University, and the role of the Stanford Band in the famous Play at the end of the 1982 Big Game. NHC] We don’t party before the game or during the game. I’m talking about the Stanford Band coming on the field in a close game when there’s four seconds left to go in the game. Our band knows where to be and when to rest and doesn’t disrupt the game in any way except of course to deliver the spirit that has helped so many Cal teams emerge victorious.
Cheatham: You have the unique position of not only having been a player in football and basketball, but also having been a coach. As a player on the field at Memorial Stadium, what are your memories of the rooting section and the spirit in the stadium?
Kapp: Football is an interesting sport. It has its own size. It has its own dimension. Memorial Stadium now seats 75,790 but at times it’s been as much as 88,000 when they had temporary bleachers. [In the Pappy Waldorf’s, post-WWII years they had extra bleachers on the flat area behind the Cal rooting section. NHC] But in football...it’s a game where rooters never get real close to the players. There is a distance the fans must keep. For the players, its violent and very close. It’s hit or be hit. It’s tough out on the field but the fans are slightly removed from you [in Memorial Stadium]. In some stadiums like the coliseum in Los Angeles there’s a track around the field, so you’re further removed from the rooters. Stanford Stadium also has a track. But, in Berkeley, at Memorial Stadium, the fans are closer. Because there is no running track, the seats are very close to the field. It’s not like it was when I played in professional football. Professional football stadiums are cold and impersonal. It’s not like that at Memorial Stadium. It has its own special feeling and quality. The fact that Tightwad Hill is there, where the victory cannon goes off, adds to the charm and feeling of Cal spirit. [Coach Kapp is referring to the imposing physical presence of the hillside right up against the the east side of the stadium. For safety reasons they won’t let the cannon on the field so it is placed on the hill where it can be seen and heard. This is a also a place where people can sit in the trees and watch the game without paying admission, but its not really a very satisfactory vantage point. See interview with John Larissou. NHC]
As a player, and as a coach...after you’ve lived it like I lived it...you almost feel when you’re at Cal, that you’re at the center of the universe. I used that theme as a coach in recruiting and I felt it as a player.
So, the fans are physically and emotionally very close to you when you’re on the field at Cal and they can be a tremendous inspirational force.
In some of these stadiums where they are removed by the width of the track and/or the slope of bleachers... [This is especially evident in the Rose Bowl and in the LA Coliseum where the seats have a slope that creates a long physical distance between the rooters and the playing field. NHC] You can have l00,000 people maybe at Stanford, or in the coliseum, but they cannot have the closeness and the feeling of audience participation that you can get at Memorial Stadium. So from my first day when I saw Coach Pappy Waldorf walk on the field back in the l800’s (laughter) [A humorous reference to the passage of time since Coach Kapp first appeared in Memorial Stadium as a freshman student athlete. NHC] whenever that was...waiting to going on the field...I recall standing in the tunnel with [fellow football player] Jack Hart and the Cal Band getting ready for our first Big Game. We were sophomores getting ready to play in Pappy Waldorf’s last game. Going out on the field we looked at each other and I think I said, “How did all these people get in our living room?”
You do feel, and establish, a kind of a feeling that this is yours, a sense of belonging to something special. To walk through that tunnel...to come out on that field. It’s a very special feeling. Very few people in the world will ever experience what Memorial Stadium can mean on a Saturday afternoon.
Cheatham: I’m glad you brought up the idea of the team coming out through North Tunnel because I didn’t think of asking that question. Those early minutes in North Tunnel prior to coming on the field is a very special time for the Band too. In other interviews we talk about that point. Thank you for bringing it up.
Was there any difference in feeling, later on when you returned as a coach, from what it was when you were a player?
Kapp: I think you know Dan, you were in the Band, the analogy and comparison is the same...nothing feels as good as playing. I mean, to be the teacher...to be the coach...it’s a pleasure! It’s an honor and a privilege! It’s worthwhile. However, there’s nothing quite like being a player. The sideline stripe is five inches wide but it might as well be a wall. Sure, the coach is part of it. Are your decisions important? Of course they are, but it’s a players game and I like to think a band is similar, the game is played on the field by the players not on the sideline by the coach.
You need the conductor. You need the head guy, but it’s the band that makes the music. It’s the players that make the game. And, the teachers job is prepare the players to perform their best. So what’s the difference? The team and the Band are both there to bring unity and spirit to the school.
What can the coach do about it? The coach is the planner, the manager of the staff and the system. The player must execute the strategy and do the physical performance on the field. But everybody, coaches and players, still need to do those same things - control their emotion. Control their mind. Control their actions. I felt that as a player at Cal. I studied the history and tradition of Cal athletics. To learn from the great coaches like Andy Smith and having played for Pappy Waldorf and Pete Newell...to try and bring all that powerful knowledge together. Actually knowing coaches Brutus Hamilton, Ky Ebright, Clint Evans, Art Gallon, Ed Nemir, as well as Gail Redden and Paul Christopolus in the football office, Chancellor Seaborg and all the people that we had contact with... As the coach I felt a responsibility to bring all these great people and what they had taught us to our players...how to compete in the arena of competitive sports. And so the thing that comes to mind in the Tunnel...getting ready to come out before the game...is the control of emotions. Certainly the Band people must have a similar challenge, remembering which fingerings to hit the notes and where to march. It’s control of emotions, as a player of football or a player in the Band. It is as much a part of learning as anything because it is such a spirited, competitive, precision kind of teamwork that’s necessary.
Years later, I had the opportunity to meet with a very famous opera singer and I asked her if she got nervous before performances. How do you control it and did you get butterflies? Her reply was, “My dear young man, if you don’t get butterflies, you can’t hit the high notes.” (laughs)
So to go into a Big Game [Cal/Stanford game] or any game, because every game’s a big game, you need to have those emotional butterflies or you can’t hit those high notes. You can’t play and perform with that freedom and that enthusiasm and reckless abandonment the game of football requires. As you learn and get older and wiser...it’s not just the game of football...it’s playing in the Band, or going to your work each day, or whatever challenge that we all have in our daily lives. That was a big difference between being a player and being a coach. There is the similar control of emotion that is necessary before you go out in the arena on the field, but its the player that has to hit the high notes and perform with that high degree of controlled freedom.
Cheatham: How did the student attitude toward the Alma Mater change over the years between your playing days and your coaching days?
Kapp: Basically, it’s kind of like a contagious disease. If you come to Cal, there’s a thing I called the Cal Experience. You don’t know when it hits you. I got hit in the seventh grade way before I ever got there, and so it hits people at different times. But at some point, you don’t mind Telegraph Avenue. [Referring to the unkempt and unruly atmosphere starting in the 1970s and extending into the present. Formerly, Telegraph Avenue was a campus-oriented, pleasant place to be. NHC] Years later when you’re out in the world, you would expect the Free Speech Movement and antiwar demonstrations to take place on the Berkeley campus. There is a spirit of openness and freedom and yet it is a very conservative place really. So, as a student athlete at Cal in the 50’s, there were attitudes and issues that at still a young age, we didn’t fully comprehend, especially myself coming from a small town with my background. I came to Cal a wide-eyed rookie. I listened and heard and tried hard at everything and had the experience fully...just experiencing all aspects of it...Telegraph Avenue, the campus, the sports, the teachers, the relationships with fellow students and everybody. My experience wasn’t unique. Mine was just like all the other students and we had success in our athletic efforts, and that effects attitude.
Dr. Seaborg, our Chancellor, was a world renowned scientist but he was friendly, visible and totally supportive of athletics. The sports teams we had on campus in those days were mentally and physically tough. Our baseball team won the world series our junior year. Our swimming, gymnastics, rugby, water polo: all championship caliber teams. And basketball under Coach Newell...we won the Pacific Coast Conference for several years in a row and then won the NCAA in 1959. [See interview with Coach Pete Newell. NHC] In 1959 we were a Rose Bowl team. [The last time the Cal Band marched in a Rose Bowl game. NHC] Dr. Seaborg in spite of all his other absolutely world shaking things, took great pride in our athletic achievements. Throughout all of this, we knew, and I knew as a student, that however good we were as a football team, our Band was probably better than we were. (laughter)
We went to the Rose Bowl in 1959 and we got beat by a better team...better athletes. Our team...we had lots of student athletes that went on to great careers in their chosen fields. We just didn’t turn out as many pro football players as Iowa [Our Rose Bowl opponent. NHC], but I’ll guarantee that we had the better band that day [See other oral histories. Especially the one by Mike Flier. NHC] and that we were proud of that and we knew that...and so attitude has much to do with success. We all need a touch of success and we need leadership.
We had leadership in those days from our chancellor. [Seaborg] We had leadership from our great coaches. Pete Elliott was our football coach [After Pappy Waldorf. NHC] and he was a great believer in enthusiasm and determination and discipline and we had more of these intangible qualities than most teams - enough to get us to the Rose Bowl and that in turn causes good attitude and great spirit on campus.
There are certainly many other great coaches and teachers in sports and they get a lot of credit but to this day, I believe, I’ve never been around anybody like basketball Coach Pete Newell.
He was able to create what I call the “we” environment, the winning environment that everybody...and I was only a reserve player on Coach Newell’s team. I sat on the end of the bench waiting to be put into the game. I competed real hard and learned a lot. I played behind Larry Friend, an all-American. I played behind Earl Robinson who was a great player. So, I was there on the bench, but I felt every bit as important to the team because this was the attitude that Coach Newell demanded of each player on our team. Pete Newell made us feel like we were important and vital to our team’s success. I try to teach this. If you’re in a band and if you play bad notes, they’re gonna hear you and you may not get the number one seat in the trumpet section. So, I may have been the last guy on the bench, but I’m not gonna play any bad notes. I’m gonna be supportive and do whatever I have to do to help the team, and so attitude is what you make of it.
Years later, coming back as the coach, that’s all I ever taught. The California Experience teaches us that the Bear will never quit. [One of coach Kapp’s favorite expressions about athletes that play for the California Golden Bears. NHC]
I’d recruit student athletes by making two promises to our recruits and their parents. One, we’re gonna graduate and we’re gonna do what I did, get a degree from Cal. Bill Cooper and I had been freshman at Cal together and he was our Assistant Coach in charge of planning and our recruiting program. We made these promises. You’re gonna have the greatest education and greatest experience of your life in getting your degree, and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to win a Rose Bowl. So we made those two promises. Well, we achieved a good record in the graduation department.
In 198l, I told our players and coaches that nothing much of value is ever earned without a sacrifice. I said, You know that sacrifices have to be made. Otherwise, we can’t achieve some of our goals. So, I’m gonna give up tequila until we win a Rose Bowl. So, here it is 1994, and I haven’t had any tequila since December, 1981. That was my sacrifice. (Thank God, for rum and Golden Grizzlies!) (laughter) [As of the date of this interview, it has been 35 years since the Golden Bears have won the conference and gone to the Rose Bowl. Coincidentally, Joe Kapp played quarterback in that game. And, coincidentally, that was the last time I marched in the Band. NHC]
Some formal commitment to teamwork was the attitude that we tied to bring to the campus. Bill Cooper and I felt that Cal sports had gone, like all kinds of things, through some cycles, yet it’s always interesting to me why the Cal Band does not have such winning and losing cycles and it is because they’ve had that great continuity of effort that sustains it. [And consistently good leadership as well. NHC] Well in football, it’s gone up and down. Bill Cooper and I felt that as much as anything, and maybe more important than anything else, was to recruit faculty interest and support. It was absolutely essential that the faculty understood what was going on with the football team...what kind of work and effort is required by the student athletes on campus. It’s not just a one hour, two hour, extracurricular activity, it’s a way of life that has to be integrated with the academic life.
Football is an eight-hour a day or more activity. I’m sure you don’t get to play the horn well either unless you put in your time learning your instrument. Well, sports are a part of the American way of life and we recruited the faculty and the administrators. The first thing we did was send letters and make phone calls to come and see what we’re doing. We invited and expected their criticism and help in our teaching methods. We felt the California Experience, was such a powerful force that more people on campus need to come and see what it is...and so we had an open door policy with faculty people. [This is reference to less interest in school spirit by the campus community at large during Kapp’s coaching days compared to his student days. Also, it is the classic conflict between academics and extra-curricular activities. This is an especially acute conflict at Cal compared to some of the schools we play against. NHC] I feel we had some success with this.
[I agree with Coach Kapp. The California Spirit has never been the same since the Free Speech Movement. Card stunts and bonfire rallies have never been the same. Hardly any faculty show up for the academic procession at Charter Day. Even Charter Day itself isn’t celebrated with the gusto it once was. And, the Telegraph Avenue merchants were once gung ho, Go Bears, supporters of the campus and its traditions.
Dean of Students Arleigh Williams was the last of the Old
Blue, senior-level, campus administrators to understand and encourage matters of traditional-based school spirit. This came as result of his own undergraduate days (He was a Cal football player and for many years held the school record for the longest punt.) and former service as Executive Director of the ASUC, during a time when the student body administered the Rally Committee and related spirit groups, including the Band, as well as Intercollegiate Athletics. After the Free Speech Movement the spirit groups transferred to the Chancellor’s Office. This office had absolutely no experience in these matters (except for a few specific people with minimum influence) and never did understand how to administer the spirit groups, especially after Dean William’s retirement. Presently, there are few, if any, administrators left who were involved with the heydays of school spirit as it was before the Free Speech Movement.
Only now, under Athletic Director John Kasser is the campus administration beginning to get a hint of what it is all about. But now, the thread of continuity of school spirit and campus tradition is lost. The Cal Band is a remaining depository of the school spirit that Coach Kapp and I remember. And even it has its struggles. (Rally Committee is also trying hard to keep the spirit alive.) The campus has good intentions but basically it is reinventing school spirit. I am anxiously watching to see how it turns out. NHC]
(END OF SIDE ONE OF TAPE ONE)
(Side two of Tape One):
Cheatham: Coach, do you have any memories of going to bonfire rallies?
Kapp: There is so much to the Cal Experience that you can’t quite do it all. It is possible to miss out on whole segments of it. I look back on the academic side...the missed opportunities to take classes from certain, special, professors or, you meet some people that never heard Professor Garff Wilson make his wonderful speeches [The Andy Smith Eulogy he traditionally gave at the Big Game bonfire rally.], or what you missed if you didn’t attend a ceremony in the Greek Theatre. [We have an oral history with Garff Wilson. NHC] I mean life at Cal is so rich. There is so much to do and experience, and yet, I can’t conceive of anybody missing the bonfire rallies.
Maybe the greatest one of all time was the spontaneous rally after Cal won the NCAA basketball championship in ’59. The team was still in the East. The whole campus, and maybe the whole East Bay convened in the Greek Theatre and had the bonfire rally of all bonfire rallies. Then there’s the regularly scheduled bonfire rallies before the important football games...it’s part of the tapestry, the experience...
Cheatham: I am sorry to say that those rallies of the late the 1950,s may have been the last of the good rallies. It was shortly thereafter that the Free Speech Movement and its aftermath diverted attention away from what could be considered sophomoric antics of school spirit. The Rah-Rah, Go Bears, attitude was no longer in vogue. Rally Committee and related groups lost financial and administrative support of the ASUC (their sponsoring group from the beginning) and have struggled to maintain what school spirit tradition is left. Basically, they have been drifting from administrator to administrator who, in spite of good intentions, have been at a total loss of what to do with them. The good news is that current Athletic Director John Kasser is showing signs of being supportive and I am holding my breath to see if school spirit can return to its former days of greatness.
Do you have any bonfire anecdotes to tell?
Kapp: Some coaches might think the bonfire rallies are a distraction because they don’t know the meaning of a Cal rally. Maybe in their experience it could be a distraction before a game. But to me, the rallies were a specific reinforcement of the support that we were receiving and they were all memorable. As a coach, I can recall getting called up to the microphone. Bill Cooper was by my side this one particular time and won’t let me forget. The cheerleaders asked me to lead a cheer, so I did. As difficult as it was, I MISSPELLED “CAL”. (laughter) I said, “Give me a C!” They gave me a C. Then I said, “Give me an L!” I left out the A but nobody seemed to mind.
Cheatham: I’d like to talk a bit about Pappy Waldorf. Do you have any memories of him going out on the balcony after a football game and talking to the rooters that were gathered in the area underneath the locker room balcony.
Kapp: The 1956 season was Pappy’s last year and my sophomore year but I played on the freshman team the season before. Our Freshman games were played in Memorial Stadium as preliminary to the varsity game. That meant that Freshmen were free to be in the crowd and watch the varsity game. I actually saw him speaking from the balcony and you know, it just added to his image as “the wise walrus of Strawberry Canyon”. [He was a portly man. NHC] He had a booming, deep voice suited to the natural setting there outside the entrance to North Tunnel. I got to see that. It was a privilege to be that close because he was a great man. He was a father figure for lots of us and all of us. Yes, I did get to experience his balcony speeches both as a rooter in my freshman year and as a varsity player, and I do recall one particular game. We had won the Big Game for Pappy. Pat Brown had just been elected Governor of California and I was introduced to him as an lowly 18 year-old sophomore quarterback. I shook his hand and I said, “Very pleased to meet you Governor Knight.” (laughter) [Goodwin Knight was the previous Governor. NHC] And then after that faux pax fumble, I was asked to join Pappy when he spoke out on the balcony and I guarantee you I didn’t say a word, but I waved to the crowd. It was an experience of a lifetime to join him on the balcony. It’s just another one of those small little moments you can never forget, like hearing Professor Garff Wilson speaking to the awards banquets, or hearing and seeing the Men’s Senior Octet, or just walking through Faculty Glade and hearing the Campanile ring out at sundown while the sun is setting on the Golden Gate. That’s part of the California experience.
Cheatham: Pappy had special bond with the rooters. They loved him and he loved them. He was a winning coach so rarely did he have to face them after a loss. Because of this it was always a happy crowd when he addressed it. There was a special game between him and the crowd. He would say five or six words and pause, and the crowd would cheer. Then he would say five or six more words, and so on. Everyone knew the rules of the game so the rooters would make each roar of approval short, so he could go on.
In those days, the Band did not play a post-game concert on the field the way they do now before exiting the stadium. Right after playing All Hail for the rooting section, the Band, in formation, would enter the tunnel along with thousands of other rooters pushing their way through to get out and hear Pappy talk. It was a crowded mess and forward progress was very slow. During this time, the Band was playing One More River, over, and over, and over... The sound inside the tunnel was great and the trombone part at the beginning of One More River sounded fantastic. Near the end of the tunnel, the Drum Major would give a signal and the Band would sigue into One-Balled Reilly. Finally, the Band would be just outside the fence and would stop and do a left turn to face the balcony. Then the sousaphones would set the tone and the tempo for a sing-song chant, We want Pappy. We want Pappy.. The unmusically-disciplined crowd would slowly pick up the tempo and when it got too fast, the tubas would, with great strength of willpower, force the crowd to start over again in the right tempo and key. Finally, after chanting for four or five minutes, Pappy would come out and thank the rooters for their support. If we won, he would bring one or two players. If we lost, he would face the crowd alone and take full responsibility for the loss. The Band would then march home to the Band Room via Bowles Hall and the crowd would disperse.
I don’t know for sure but I think in the post-Pappy years, the Band got tired of forcing its way through the bottleneck at the tunnel and started playing the post-game concert for the alumni side while the crowd thinned out.
Coach, did you ever get out to the balcony when you were coach?
Kapp: Later, when I was asked as a coach to go out on the balcony to speak, I thought about it very hard because when you ask Joe Kapp to do something, I try very hard to answer yes. So, when you say no, you better have a good reason for it, at least in my own mind. I wanted to do it. But the question was, is it the right thing to do? I thought about that one long and hard. And I made the decision that it was Pappy Waldorf’s thing. It shouldn’t be done by any other coaches. It’s a tradition that lived and died with Pappy. That was my decision.
Cheatham: How did it happened that an ex-Cal football quarterback became in later years, the coach of the Cal football team?
Kapp: We talked earlier about choosing up sides. You know, it’s wonderful in life if you can pick something to do that has meaning for you. It would be difficult...it has been and probably always will be difficult for me to want to go coach at some other school. Certainly not Stanford or another school that Cal would be playing against and the reason is maybe a bit of independence on my part. I played pro-football for 12 seasons and I attained a bit of financial independence. So when the opportunity came to return to Cal...Athletic Director Dave Maggard pointed out, the football program needed rejuvenation...some spirit...so maybe I was a logical candidate. [I vouch that Coach Kapp has an enthusiastic personality that is contagious and he is imbued with the California Spirit. NHC]
I just didn’t jump in. I asked former Cal basketball coach Pete Newell, and as many people as I possibly could for their view. Should I do it? Later, when the criticism starts, when you don’t win football games fast enough, there was this thing, or even right at the start maybe...we never did overcome the hurdle that Joe Kapp had never formally been a coach before. But in my mind that point wasn’t valid because I had coached as a player on the field in Canada for eight years. In the old days the quarterback was always a coach on the field. Also, I had returned to Cal almost every spring and helped Coaches Mike White, Pete Elliott, Marv Levy, and Ray Wilsey. I had participated in countless lectures, clinics, and summer kids camps. So without having a title, I had coached a lot. I was a physical education major so that when the opportunity came, and the point was made they’d like to have me, I chose to do it. I considered it a great privilege and an honor if I could help. I think that some of the in-roads we made in recruiting faculty support and emphasizing certain needs, helping to improve the academic tutoring program and being open to the diversity in recruiting, we gave the administration a lot to think about. Cal has got to make the doors open for football players that have excelled and have come from all kinds of backgrounds and those doors have to be opened. The coaches have a huge responsibility to recruit players that are academically motivated. Then it’s up to the school to tune in with what’s going on in the country and if you want to have a competitive sports program, to make resources available. Student athletes need help getting through school because of the time commitment that studies and football require.
We think that we did a lot of positive things in that area. But for me personally, it was a case of choosing up sides and I chose Cal a long time ago, so it was just a great privilege and honor to be part of that history and tradition of Cal athletics.
Cheatham: There has been a long-standing, under-the-surface conflict at Cal relating to the role of athletics in a university with such a high academic standard. There are many so-called Football Universities where athletics is a major power on campus. Athletic budgets are bottomless and the Athletic Director has enormous influence. At Cal, coaches and athletic directors have never had that much supremacy and it always seems to be a struggle for them to meet the needs of the athletic programs in the face of Chancellors and faculty that place such high regard for academic excellence. To many people at Cal this is a source of pride, feeling that the football schools don’t have their priorities right.
You spoke a while back about your faux pas...about not being able to spell Cal when you were leading the yell. I have to tell you one that the Band did. A couple of years ago, the Straw Hat Band was asked to come and play for a gathering of Pappy’s Boys, the group of football players that were under his coaching. As you know, the Straw Hat Band sometimes will holler out, “Let’s all say hello to So-and-so.” So, here they are at this gathering of Pappy’s boys and someone hollered, “Let’s all say hello to Pappy Waldorf!” Well of course, you and I both know that Pappy was long since deceased and the kids in the Band weren’t even born when Pappy was coaching. So, they had a lot of egg on their face for having made a mistake also. (laughter)
As a basketball player, can you give us any anecdotes of the interactions between the Straw Hat Band and the basketball team?
Kapp: As I said earlier, it was a very valuable part of my life to be on a Pete Newell basketball team. We won the Pacific Coast championships my sophomore and junior years. In the playoff system, we did not advance too far, and yet we were champion teams. From my spot on the bench, being so close to the Straw Hat Band in terms of going on and off the court, I actually felt like I was a member of the Straw Hat Band. I think if you found those particular people right now, they’d say, Yeah, Joe was part of the Band. I didn’t have an instrument but we sat on the same bench and I felt that kind of spirit and camaraderie with them. I’ve carried this secret with me my whole life, if you truly get lonely, just go sit near the band somewhere. It doesn’t matter which band. All bands are good for this purpose. That’s the power particularly of the Straw Hat Band. [Ralph Edwards said something similar in his interview. NHC]
So, that wonderful championship season in 1959 when we won it all, the NCAA...and the fellows were back in Louisville when they won it. [Kapp didn’t play basketball that year because during early Basketball season, he was preparing to play in the Rose Bowl. NHC] It was as if everybody else that was left out here on the coast convened at the Greek Theatre and we had an instant, spontaneous rally. It might not have been the organized Straw Hat Band, but there was band there and it was the Spirit of Cal that once again prevailed.
Cheatham: In his oral history, Coach Pete Newell told us of his amazement how he could show up at Moscow, Idaho, at Pullman, Washington, and other out-of-the way places and lo and behold, there was the Straw Hat Band. He never knew how they got there, but he was appreciative. I’m wondering if you have any similar recollections.
Kapp: Well, in the Pacific Coast Conference, Moscow, Idaho is as remote as it gets and I just recall one time traveling with the basketball team. I think we took a plane and maybe a train and then a dog sled, but we did land in Moscow and there to meet us was the Straw Hat Band. The trip having been what it was...unreal...when we landed at the airport it was in the dead of winter, so we had our overcoats on, and here to pick us up were three or four big four-door sedans from the thirties and the forties. They looked like gangster cars. So we immediately went from being a basketball team to being mobsters from the big city, and it carried us through the weekend. That’s what happens when the Team Spirit can grow to be an experience that we remember the rest of our lives. Coach Newell became Big Julie from East Cicero, Illinois, and we were his mob, and sure enough there in Moscow, Idaho with Big Julie and his mob was the Straw Hat Band.
In fact, if I go back far enough to the old basketball days, we were sponsored by Flying A. [The nick name for Tidewater Associated gasoline company. NHC] The games opened with [stadium announcer] Art Arlet saying...“On the highway! In the air! Flying A is everywhere!” I don’t know if I have that quite right, but something like that. [That matches my memory. NHC] I don’t know if Flying A was everywhere, but the Straw Hat Band sure was.
Cheatham: You have a friendship with a former Bandsman, and someone we have done an oral history with, by the name of Neil Lucas. What are your recollections of him?
Kapp: Neil is a great teacher. He spent his lifetime in education. One of my teammates on the championship Cal basketball team was Ned Averbuck who taught with Neil at Alameda Community College and Laney College. It’s just a long-time friendship. You meet people like this at Cal great people! If you ask any old athlete, “What do you remember. What did you get out of your sport?” Usually, 99% of the time, it was the relationships you established with people, your teammates, your friendships by competing and going to war together, by playing in this, or that, particular game together, or playing in the Band. So, Neil is that kind of an old friend. I was never in the Band with him but it’s kind of like we’ve been in that tunnel together [referring to the north tunnel in Memorial Stadium in preparation to entering the stadium. NHC] You can look a man in the eye if you’ve had that common experience and shared value. His wisdom and friendship helped me over the years...and because you know Ned Averbuck, you get to meet this other fellow named Neil Lucas. Great people! Neil is as loyal a Cal person as I’ve ever met. Many young people have learned from Neil about values and loyalty to a place and a school and its traditions, and for all the right reasons. That’s what Neil Lucas represents to me.
Cheatham: Thank you. That’s a nice compliment to Neil.
Joe, I’ve taken an hour plus out of your very busy day. I appreciate it very much. As an expression of our appreciation I’m handing you a copy of the latest compact disc, including Cal songs and other recordings by the Cal Band that I think will bring back old memories. So Coach, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
Kapp: Well thank you. Of course, I’ve got the records and the tapes and lots of wonderful original music that was sent to me after The Play. [Referring to the famous Big Game of 1982.] To have been a part of the whole Cal experience as a player and a coach...Mr. Briggs would tell you that from time to time, I grabbed the horn [Sousaphone?]. I did not hit the correct and accurate notes but we...to me, it’s an example that when you choose up sides, you also choose a game. I chose sports, so music and playing an instrument took a backseat...but we’ve learned to listen to the Cal Band. I play at several instruments and probably the fact that it was the sousaphone that was so hard to carry home and practice that I didn’t get proficient at one position, at one horn but we loved the Cal Band and we always will.
END OF SIDE TWO OF TAPE TWO