A one-point lead with 3.6 seconds left was good enough for thousands of Duke fans to storm Cameron’s court Monday night.
One successful free throw later, the 4,500 spectators in Cameron Indoor Stadium erupted in cheers and Coach K Court was filled with a mass of blue-clad students and flashing lights—all celebrating the Blue Devils’ 61-59 win over Butler University in the NCAA Tournament Championship to claim the 2010 national title.
For a teary-eyed, elderly Marion Morris, Woman’s College ’59, the feeling of victory was enough to make her hug students left and right.
“Complete and total joy that we won the game,” Morris said of her reaction to the win. “I almost had five heart attacks during the second half.”
Officials lowered the video scoreboard in Cameron to broadcast the game on its four-panel screens. The stadium was filled with fans chanting, “Let’s go Duke!” in unison throughout the game.
John Tortorella, a graduate student in the Nicholas School of the Environment, was among the many watching the game in Cameron and stormed the court after the victory.
“It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had at Duke,” he said. “I’ve been to all the games... couldn’t ask for a better season.”
After the victory, a bonfire blazed on Main West and students, faculty, alumni and administrators welcomed the win by burning benches carried from across East and West Campuses. Toilet paper and splintered wood filled the air over the crackling fire under Duke’s historic oaks.
“It was fantastic, I was so pleased with the seniors especially. I was so happy to watch it in Cameron,” Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said. “This is the way it’s supposed to be.”
Firefighters put out the fire around 2 a.m as the crowd of thousands dwindled to a few hundred.
Assistant Chief Gloria Graham of the Duke University Police Department said that as of 1:30 a.m., the celebration was under control, adding that there had been about two responses by emergency medical services because of “minor cuts.” She added that none of the responses were alcohol-related.
“It’s been going really well,” Graham said of the celebration, attributing the low number of incidents to the successful shutdown of campus. “It went even better than we expected, all that planning paid off.”
Officials announced over the weekend that campus would be closed to anyone not affiliated with the University.
DUPD Chief John Dailey said there was one unconfirmed report of vandalism at Tommy’s Rubs & Grubs, but added that “unfortunately we would expect some vandalism tonight.”
For senior Eric Esch, two torn anterior cruciate ligaments that left him wheelchair-bound were not enough to stop him from celebrating at the bonfire. But he said he was nervous about his team’s performance early in the game.
“I just started to have the feeling that things would fall to pieces,” Esch said. “I wasn’t completely sure about it, but I was anxious.... It’s good to see this.”
The crowd also consisted of admitted students attending Blue Devil Days.
“I want to come to Duke,” prospective freshman Paige Meiere said. “It’s great—where else are you going to find a type of university where people celebrate like this and the next day kids are going to class?”
Moneta sent an e-mail to the student body at 3:39 p.m. Monday announcing that classes would be held Tuesday.
“Duke excels as an academic and athletic institution and that we can celebrate our achievements both on the courts (and fields) and in the classrooms simultaneously is something of which we are all very proud,” Moneta wrote.
Even athletes not in Indianapolis, Ind. were able to share in the excitement.
“It’s our senior year so it was pretty crazy and breathtaking,” said senior Brandon Harper, an offensive guard on the football team. “As an athlete also it was pretty incredible.”
Durham residents and Duke students watched the championship game in bars down Main Street, including at Devine’s Sports Bar and Grill and 1013 West Main.
Graham said DUPD had been collaborating with the Durham Police Department and festivities on Main Street were relatively quiet.
“This bar is ideal because it’s close to the campus,” 1013 West Main bar owner Zeke Loynab said before the game. “The players hang out here, so we’re big Duke fans. Hopefully we get a great crowd, a lot of Duke fans and a win.”
Loynab did get a win and a strong turnout.
Freshman Justin Budlow watched the game at 1013 with several of his friends, noting that they chose the bar because it was one of the places that was not too crowded.
“They have TVs at every angle and it’s a great Duke environment to watch the game,” Budlow said.
As the crowd of elated students on the quad dwindled by around 2 a.m., Durham Fire Inspector Ron Rogers said the time had come to put out what was left of the bonfire.
Four Durham firefighters approached the smoldering fire with hoses and tools. Firefighters and students doused the flames together, and there were scattered cheers as smoke rose, leaving burnt toilet paper and hundreds of crushed cans on the quad.
Rogers said students were well behaved, adding that the bonfire followed guidelines.
“The Durham fire marshal is very proud that Duke won a national championship,” he said.
Dailey said he was pleased the celebration was relatively safe and uniquely Duke.
“It’s a big night, we’re the only university in the country doing this tonight,” Dailey said.
Samantha Brooks, Joanna Lichter and Zachary Tracer contributed reporting.