Cal Poly Athletics asks local stores to remove tortillas from shelves as rivalry football game looms

Cal Poly Athletics has called on local grocery stores to remove tortillas from their aisles in preparation for Wednesday’s men’s soccer game between Cal Poly and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

According to athletic director Don Oberhelman, for the past six years, Cal Poly students have bought packages of tortillas and smuggled them into Spanos Stadium to throw them on the field, often hitting players and staff. This tradition has been adopted by UCSB, as students have been throwing tortillas there when goals are scored in their sports games for over 30 years. The tortilla toss has been criticized for its racist connotation, as UCSB’s mascot is Olé the Gaucho, an Argentinian cowboy.

Oberhelman called several grocery stores in San Luis Obispo — including Vons, California Fresh Market, Grocery Outlet and Trader Joe’s — demanding that the tortillas be removed from their shelves in an effort to discourage college students from continuing the “tradition” this year.

Oberhelman said throwing tortillas is disrespectful and can hurt players, coaches and officials.

“I hope our local grocers will cooperate with us in this endeavor and understand that we have to protect our students from themselves because many of them don’t understand how bad it is,” Oberhelman said. “The reaction [from grocers] I had was mostly positive, but there were certainly mixed reviews.

Blas Alvarado | Mustang News, 2021

The field officials in 2021 were on the verge of losing the game due to the volume of tortillas and other items thrown onto the field. Students and the stadium will be screened before the start of the football game to prevent tortillas from being smuggled onto the field, according to Oberhelman.

“We have to find a way to do better,” Oberhelman said. “I’m very worried that the officials will stop the game if the conduct hasn’t improved from last year.”

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