Illustration by Emily Levenson
Though Berkeley High School (BHS) and Bishop O’Dowd are both located in the East Bay and each compete in the Western Alameda Contra Costa (WACC) league, not many other similarities exist to explain the competitive feud that has developed between the schools.
Bishop O’Dowd is a private Catholic high school in Oakland, which allows the school’s athletic teams to actively recruit athletes. Each school’s soccer and basketball teams have been very successful over the last couple years, but throughout history the football program at O’Dowd has performed better than their Berkeley counterparts. While both schools have comparable levels of athletic achievement, the schools structure could hardly be more different. Bishop O’Dowd has an expected annual tuition of $19,000 for every student athlete, which allows for scholarships to be given to their various teams most coveted recruits. This also allows for more extensive care for their schools athletes, with many Dragon teams having access to orthopedic surgeons and concussion experts.
Though one would think the advantageous combination of recruiting power and extra resources would result in more success for the Dragons’ sports teams, BHS has held their ground against their rivals. It can be inferred that these results are one of the main reasons for the rivalry, as each schools teams have typically been competing at the top of the WACC league. This compounded with the fact that the schools are closer to each other than any others in the league significantly contributes to the rivalry between the two schools.
The BHS and Bishop O’dowd rivalry has become such a phenomenon that games against O’dowd are by far the most attended sports events at our school, with the stands almost always full. These competitions bring in disproportionate amounts of ticket sales.
As any good team rivalry should, the performances of the two programs bring out the best in the other. For example, last year the BHS Men’s soccer team beat the O’dowd soccer team in both encounters. The Jackets then went on to win NCS for the first time in thirteen years.
This year O’dowd rebounded, though, tying both games with the Jackets and going on to win an NCS championship of their own. Just a couple weeks ago, O’dowd men’s baseball dealt they Yellow Jackets a brutal blow, handing them their first home loss in over two years.
The standoff between the two schools has slowly spread beyond the sports community, filtering into the entire BHS identity. Not only do we dislike O’dowd athletically, the rivalry permeates socially as well; if a student from Bishop O’dowd so much as shows up at a BHS party they will be forced out almost immediately.
During BHS’s spirited rally days, derogatory chants targeted towards O’dowd are usually one of the first to emerge, and one of the most enthusiastic. Over the years, BHS’s warfare against our neighboring school has progressively gotten more intense. With so much history behind the rivalry, our two schools can use the rivalry as an outlet for school spirit in years to come.