Cameron Crazies have been lauded as one of the most creative and energetic student sections in the history of college basketball. In early 2012, when national media outlets picked up declining student attendance, Duke student interest in basketball became a national headline. However, if the surge of tents in Krzyzewskiville this season serves as any indication, these trends in basketball attendance may not be as significant as once thought.
The story of students’ waning interest in filling Section 17 garnered so much attention because it created a compelling narrative: elite academics vs. big-time athletics. At a time when the role of college sports is constantly being weighed against the demands of providing a top-notch education, commentators used the story of the Cameron Crazies getting less crazy to prove schools could not have both. Unfortunately, the editorial board also bought into the narrative. In an editorial written last year, we wrote that “as the University has become increasingly selective in admissions, it follows that fewer students feel they can spare precious time and energy on attending games.”
The debate about the future of the Cameron Crazies also seemed to support larger shifts in campus culture. Along with the end of tailgate, and the struggles of football gameday, the belief that the Crazies were a dying breed supported the idea that the interests of the student body were changing.
Fast forward to this season, and it seems like the Crazies are crazier than ever. Policy changes might have influenced the resurgence of Duke’s tent city, but the team’s likeability, shorter tenting period and warmer weather were probably bigger contributors. Combine this with Duke’s No. 1 position atop the AP Poll and the fact that the Duke vs. Ohio State game—arguably one of the biggest games in college basketball this season—was played in front of a sell-out crowd in Cameron and it seems like basketball at Duke is alive and well.
Since the Crazies are still crazy, any arguments about “the death of Duke’s social culture” should not consider declining basketball enthusiasm as evidence.
Indeed, depending on how you define social culture, doomsayers could point to other changes: the oft-mentioned statistic that more students cite DukeEngage than basketball as reason to attend Duke or the end of Tailgate. These changes, which are likely positive, could point to a socially transforming Duke. But leave the Crazies out of it: politicizing K-ville ignores the facts (a record number of tents) and does a disservice to college basketball generally.
Students have the right to attend basketball games if they want. But if they want to do homework or go to an orchestra concert or listen to a talk or hang out with their friends, they have that right, too. Even if the number of tents in K-ville ever drops—which is obviously not yet the case—students should not be criticized by the media, alumni or the athletics department for their choice to attend or not attend a game.
If Section 17 is truly ours, let us decide what to do with it.
Sam Davis recused himself because he is a line monitor.