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Stanford's Ekom Udofia, left, stands next to his brother Udeme Udofia during football practice in Stanford on Monday, August 14, 2006. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)
THIS football season, for both Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, has failed to match the academic luster of these Bay Area rivals, two of the country's most prestigious learning institutions.

Stanford is 3-8, though nothing more was expected of the Cardinal, including its shocking upset of the University of Southern California.

Cal is 6-5 and humiliated after the Golden Bears plummeted from No. 2 in the national collegiate polls last month to completely out of the rankings.

Thus Saturday's 110th Big Game down on The Farm has all the expectations of a Mike Huckabee-Dennis Kucinich presidential showdown.

However, football ends eventually for everyone who plays the game. The question then is have they prepared themselves academically for whatever comes next?

Three Cal seniors — running back Justin Forsett, safety Thomas DeCoud and offensive tackle Mike Gibson — and two Stanford seniors — defensive end Udeme Udofia and cornerback Nick Sanchez — envisioned their futures this week.

"A lot of stuff we use as a team parlays to the business world," said Forsett, a business and marketing major who will graduate in the spring. "That lets me know I can be as successful off thefield as on the field."

DeCoud already has his degree in business marketing and advertising; he's taking graduate courses while completing his football eligibility.

"Cal has taught me how to synthesize and process information," he said. "Everyone has their tough semesters. It just comes with the territory of a great academic institution, which demands so much of you."

Cal has taught Forsett, DeCoud and Gibson time-management skills. Of the three, Gibson has had the roughest time academically.

"It's not easy," said Gibson, who's majoring in education and sports psychology. "At this institution, if we have an extra 10 minutes, we're looking for research in the library. At other institutions, they might use those 10 minutes to rest."

Gibson, who transferred to Cal from Solano Community College, feels he has grown the most academically through his writing. He plans to get his Cal degree in another year after first trying the National Football League.

But that Cal degree will mean everything to him.

"It would be a huge accomplishment," he said. "Coming out of high school, I didn't qualify academically. For my family, it's always been a struggle academically. I want to teach and you don't see many teachers with Cal degrees on their walls."

UC Berkeley currently is rated the nation's

No. 1 public university by U.S. News and World Report, while Stanford is listed perennially among the nation's top five private universities.

So for a football player to graduate from these think tanks, it takes tremendous dedication considering all of the hours spent at practice, plus team meetings and weightlifting sessions, and having to study while injured.

"I'm a much better student, working harder," said Udofia, whose major is public policy and who graduates this spring. "It's a little intimidating at Stanford, but with all the new ideas and all the people from diverse backgrounds and the sharing of experiences, you just grow a lot."

Sanchez is majoring in communications, which he'd like to combine with sports in a broadcasting or advertising mode after graduating this winter. He also credits time management with helping him grow academically.

"I don't know if I get eight hours sleep every night, but I try to get as much sleep as I can," he said. "Once I get a (Stanford) diploma, it's going to mean a lot to me. That's the reason we all came here."

Udofia clearly sees the future with his Stanford degree.

"When we come here, a lot of professors say that Stanford is a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision," he said. "Looking down the road and graduating from one of the greatest institutions in the world, that would mean a lot to me, and motivating to my own kids and to the people around me."

So regardless of how your last college football season turns out, there are more important victories ahead on the pathway through life.

Dave Newhouse's column appears Monday, Thursday and Sunday, usually in the Metro section. Know any Good Neighbors? Phone 510-208-6466 or

e-mail dnewhouse@bayareanewsgroup.com.