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Tobacco Road romances

Senior Greg Virgin, who is engaged to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Christine Elliott, explained that after having tented out for the UNC game and watching Duke lose, he did not enjoy returning home to hear his fiancee and her Carolina friends mimic the typical D-U-K-E chants.

Virgin and Elliott, who met on an airplane ride home to Florida over Thanksgiving break their sophomore year, decided it would be best not to watch the game together. "We talked about it on the phone and decided [there was] no way [we could watch it together]," Virgin said. "I tried to talk trash about it, but that probably just ended up hexing us a bit."

Junior Annie Richardson and her Carolina boyfriend, senior Andrew Tripp, also agreed that watching the game by themselves would be the wisest decision.

"We both wanted to watch the games at our respective schools, but then afterwards, I drove over to Carolina, where his fraternity brothers were quick to decorate my car with plenty of Tar Heel things, but they were at least nice enough not to get anything on the paint of the car," Richardson said.

Even when Duke and UNC's basketball teams are not dueling on the court, friendly heckling is not uncommon for these couples. For example, Richardson and Tripp's relationship began when she was doing volunteer work required by one of her classes. "We were working at the Durham Homestead and Tobacco Museum, and everyone told me that a guy from Carolina was coming," Richardson said. "He ended up being late, and when he finally showed up I said to him, 'Look, I know you go to UNC, but could you please set an alarm clock?'"

Richardson made clear that the constant teasing is never really mean-spirited-just occasionally annoying.

"One thing he does that drives me crazy is sing that stupid Tar Heel song," Richardson said. "But I don't think we've ever really let it get to us."

Beyond the friendly rivalries and the tense basketball season, Duke-UNC couples admit that there are some advantages to dating someone from another school.

"All of my friends actually think it's really cool because it's a whole [different] place you can hang out at," said Nathalie Corredor, a Duke senior who dates Tar Heel senior Jeremy Smith.

Duke's event management coordinator Jeanne Kirschner, a former track athlete who graduated from Duke in 1994, met her husband, UNC assistant athletic director and director of sports information Steve Kirschner, at a track meet.

The Kirschner couple said their connection to athletics makes their Duke-UNC relationship even more unique.

"It's a different perspective because now I know most of their coaches. So it's very much a joking relationship that we have," Kirschner said. "There is definitely a rivalry there and one thing my husband does is refuse to drink out of the plastic Duke cups I get at games."

Kirschner said that at their wedding, it seemed more appropriate to ask their guests if they were Blue Devils or Tar Heels rather than guests of the bride or groom.

Being married to a Tar Heel also raises the tough question of which college your children should cheer for most.

"I'd be happy if they went to either school, but the biggest problem we will have is what to dress them in," said Kirschner, who does not yet have children.

Virgin explained that even though he is not yet married and does not have children, he already has the clothes situation figured out.

"There's a huge dispute about what we're going to do with the kids," Virgin said. "I've already told her that as for the girls, she can dress them as she wants in UNC gear, but the guys are mine."

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