The independent news organization of Duke University


Forget the camel, and forget white tenting

Students who choose to wait in the walk-up line are not guaranteed admission to the Duke-North Carolina game.
Students who choose to wait in the walk-up line are not guaranteed admission to the Duke-North Carolina game.

I love white tenting.

I like that it only lasts two weeks. I appreciate the fact that 10 out of 12 people get to sleep in their beds every night. I like that if you position someone near enough to the secret registration spot, you can get a guaranteed seat to one of the biggest sporting events in America.

But I think it needs to be scrapped.

The problem isn’t that white tenting isn’t popular. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Last year, hundreds of people raced to the CARL building to register for 40 tents—enough that the line monitors stopped accepting tent rosters. Monday night, there were once again far too many people for the number of available spots.

A demand that high indicates that white tenting is too easy considering the magnitude of the North Carolina game. For two nights in K-ville and less than an hour and a half per day, you can see Duke take on the Tar Heels in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Why not try it?

(Full disclosure: My friends and I tried—and failed—to get a white tent Monday, but that has nothing to do with me writing this column. It was going to happen regardless.)

I went digging through The Chronicle’s archives over the weekend, and as far as I can tell, white tenting is a remnant from the time when no one was allowed to camp out more than 10 days before the game. That restriction obviously doesn’t apply anymore. Two years ago, the first group was set up in K-ville by the end of final exams in December, nearly three months before the March contest. This season, the maximum tenting period was restricted to a much more reasonable six weeks. In any event, the earliest tenters now set up well in advance of that 10-day barrier.

I agree with having a firm start date to the tenting season, mostly for health reasons. Three months is far too long to be sleeping outside, even if Durham winters are milder than those in other parts of the country.

But why is it necessary to have another artificial starting point two weeks before the game? For every other game, the line forms naturally, with fans showing up whenever they decide doing so is worthwhile. Why is the Carolina game any different? Once the first tent goes up—and I’m aware of the slight contradiction here, but again, that time should be regulated for the health of everyone involved—why can’t others join whenever they see fit?

It’s nice to be able to say that Krzyzewskiville is full two weeks before the game, and for fans to ogle at the 100 tents packing the lawn in front of Wilson as they walk into Cameron. But is filling those spots really a concern? We know Duke students are going to tent, and many of them are going to set up weeks before the opening tip.

Allowing seniors busy with interviewing to tent is also good, but I have a hard time believing that white tenting is the only option for seniors in that position. If interviewing is a major issue for some fans, they can simply start tenting later or join the walkup line, which only requires a commitment of a couple days.

And in some ways, it is great that white tenting allows more moderate fans to get into the biggest game of the year. (It’s still the biggest game if Carolina is 3-9 in the ACC, right?) But isn’t the magnitude of the game precisely why you want the most dedicated fans in the stands, not just the first 40 groups to reach the camel statue by Gross Chem? Yes, people who want to go to the game may still try the walkup line, but even if they get into Cameron, they will be pushed to the outskirts of the student section. That may not seem like much of a difference, but believe me, it is. And since the walkup line doesn’t guarantee admission, a handful of dedicated fans may decide the walkup line isn’t even worth it.

At this point, you’re probably looking for a better solution. Here’s what I would do: Keep the same start date, with black tenting beginning six weeks before the UNC game (assuming a March matchup, for simplicity). Blue tenting would start one week later and go all the way until personal checks, with six people having to be present at night. Black tents and groups that join on the first day of blue tenting would be sorted by a tally of how many cumulative men’s basketball games their members attend between the start date and personal checks. After that first batch of tents, groups would be sorted by the order in which they register.

Not only is it simpler than the current system, but it fits with the spirit of the walkup policy for other games, giving fans the freedom to line up whenever they choose. If you don’t want to spend an entire semester in a tent, fine—register a couple weeks before the game. If you just want the experience of a Duke-UNC game in Cameron, keep an eye on the number of tents and sign up for one in the 90s.

It may also be worthwhile to reward the black tents with white tenting rules for the week leading up to personal checks. That would give the hardcore tenters a break and ensure that they have time to recover before the game. But I wouldn’t give white tenting rules to anyone else—they’re just too relaxed.

As someone who wants to go to the game, I like that, but apparently so do a lot of you. At least 300 people were at the CARL building last year, and a long wait list formed again this year.

We can come up with a better system. Eliminating white tenting just might do it.


Share and discuss “Forget the camel, and forget white tenting” on social media.