The time the Super Bowl came to town

Niners Quarterback Joe Montana in the Super Bowl XIX against the Miami Dolphins at Stanford Stadium on Jan. 21, 1985. AP photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer

In 1985, Coca-Cola introduced New Coke, pop singers recorded “We Are The World,” and the NFL held Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium.

Larry Klein, who was Palo Alto mayor at the time, said he doubts the Super Bowl will ever return to Stanford. The fact that it happened at all was a minor miracle.

With the 49ers in Miami to play the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Sunday, the Post is looking back at the first and only time the Super Bowl was played at Stanford.

And after Bay Area leaders worked hard to secure the big game, it turned out that the 49ers would win the NFC title and they hosted the Miami Dolphins. The effort to draw the Super Bowl to Stanford started in 1982, after the 49ers defeated the Bengals at the Super Bowl that year.

Quentin Kopp, former state senator who served as San Francisco County Supervisor at the time, created a committee to convince the NFL to host the 1985 Super Bowl in the Bay Area.

At the time, Stanford Stadium was the only Bay Area stadium that met the NFL’s requirements for the Super Bowl, according to Kopp. The league’s policy dictated that the game be played at a stadium with a seating capacity of at least 90,000. Stanford Stadium had a capacity of 92,000 at the time.

A change at the top at Stanford

Previously, Kopp had inquired with Andy Geiger, then the athletic director for Stanford, as to whether the university could lease its stadium for the Super Bowl. Geiger asked Stanford’s president at the time, Richard Lyman, who declined.

However, Stanford got a new president in 1980, Donald Kennedy. Kopp urged Geiger to try again.

“(Geiger) called me back a few days later and said, ‘It’s a go,’” Kopp said.

NFL team owners met in Dallas in 1983 to make a decision, according to Kopp.

A ticket to the 1985 Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium.

Luckily, Pete Rozelle was the NFL commissioner at the time. Rozelle had graduated from the University of San Francisco and had been the public relations man for the 49ers before becoming commissioner, according to Kopp.

The decision was announced in 1983.

“That meant you had about a year and seven or eight months to prepare for the game,” Kopp said.

Kopp said he obtained about $100,000 from the city and county of San Francisco, which paid for Kopp’s aide to complete the committee’s administrative work. The rest of the 16-person committee were volunteers, including members of the Santa Clara County Chamber of Commerce, a few business people from downtown Palo Alto and a few Palo Alto City Council members.

Klein was one of those council members.

“The mayor in 1982 said, ‘You like football. Why don’t you be our point-person?’” Klein said.

Klein was elected mayor in 1983 and completed his term by the end of 1984. However, the City Council decided to extend his term by about six weeks so that he could continue to oversee the activities around the game in early 1985.

Fans excited by Dolphins-Niners matchup

Martin Jacobs, who’s written books about the Niners and acquired a small museum’s worth of team collectibles, said local fans were excited when they learned the Niners would be playing against the Dolphins.

“(The Dolphins) had an all-star team, and they were supposed to be the team to beat,” Jacobs said.

The program sold to fans for the Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium.

Klein remembers that day fondly. He said it was hard for people to enter the stadium, as about 30,000 people were hanging around outside “to be part of the scene.”

Crystal Gamage attended the celebration in lieu of her husband Walt, who’d retired as sports editor for the Palo Alto Times.

“Everybody in Palo Alto was happy the game was there,” Gamage said. “It was like the county fair: everybody was there.”

Ken Flower, who was working as the Niners’ vice president of marketing, said “it was a complicated weekend” and that the weather was terrible.
“It was foggy and cold and threatening rain,” Flower said.

He said activities prior to the start of the game were in San Francisco, and that the game was mostly attended by people from the Bay Area.

Anne Cribbs, who was working in the city of Palo Alto’s recreation department at the time, said she was contacted by the Super Bowl committee and asked to “show off” the area to people coming to visit.

Cribbs, a former Olympic athlete, collected memorabilia of Olympians from across the Bay Area. She and her staff set up pop-up museums in San Francisco, then moved the exhibits to Palo Alto on the day of the game.

“Even in 1985, (the Super Bowl) was a big deal,” Cribbs said.

The Apple logo on stadium seats

Cribbs said she thought it was funny that the stadium, with its wooden seats, had to have cushions made for the game.

“Apple got its logo on them,” Cribbs said. “It was ambush marketing at its finest.”

Jacobs had printed up t-shirts to sell outside the stadium. The shirts had a picture of a Niner holding a dolphin beneath the phrase “Gone Fishin’.”

Jacobs said stadium security took “about 800” of the shirts during the game, which he was able to retrieve later.

Tickets to the 1985 Super Bowl game were as much as $125 each, according to Jacobs and Klein. That’s about $300 today.

“We all felt back in ’85 that tickets were expensive,” said Klein. “But even inflation-adjusted, prices today are way higher than in ’85.”

The Niners beat the Dolphins, 38 to 16. Jacobs said “it was the most gratifying 49ers victory of all time.”

Klein said he doubts a Super Bowl will ever come back to Stanford. Cribbs agreed.

“It’s gotten, obviously, very corporate,” she said.

One more thing

Editor’s note: After the Post printed this story on Tuesday, we received the following letter to the editor and photo.

Dear Editor: I enjoyed your article Tuesday on Super Bowl XIX in 1985 at Stanford Stadium. It brought back great memories of our “weekend at the Super Bowl” — Seven friends who rented a motorhome and were seventh in line to park in the RV lot on Galvez Street directly across from the Stadium. We were parked right next to the Palo Alto Times-Tribune team, who outfitted us with hats and pins. We didn’t attend the game. We watched the game on a TV we set up with the generator from the motorhome. We’re all still friends today — and hoping for a similar outcome this Sunday.

John F. Nunziati
Redwood City

John F. Nunziati sent the Post in this picture of his friends at the Super Bowl in 1985.

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