Bogged Down in Crazie

The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium
The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium

Sue Wasiolek stood behind a set of curtains at center court in Cameron Indoor Stadium, preparing to take the biggest risk of her 10-year student affairs career. Standing next to her was an undergraduate, still caught up in yanking off the final pieces of the Blue Devil costume and throwing them over the side of the curtain to the delight of the crowd. Wasiolek’s job was easy, it seemed. Just run out from behind the curtain, play it up like she had been the mascot all along, blow some kisses, take a bow, then get off the floor and let the second half begin. But she was scared by what might happen when she ran by the opponent’s bench to confront Bunch of Guys, known around campus as BOG, a group with which her stock had fallen considerably.

“My relationship with BOG at that point was beginning to go south,” Wasiolek recalls. “I was fearful that somebody might throw something at me, and that I could potentially be harmed. I was even much more bold and unthinking about those kinds of consequences than I am today, so the fact that I had a level of fear was real.”

The group had been originally established in the late 1960s as an alternative to greek life, the only such all-male option at the time. Operating outside of the Interfraternity Council gave BOG the freedom to do rush without restrictions. The group also rapidly became known for its collection of quick-witted, authority-questioning members (or “Boggers”), who were disproportionately well-represented in campus leadership positions.

“They had an enormous number of student leaders,” Wasiolek says. “They were very powerful, very influential on campus—always seemed to have the University’s best interests in mind.”

While BOG was involved in many facets of campus life, counting both the president of the student government and the editor of The Chronicle as members during the mid 1980s, they had a special focus on basketball—and on a youthful and energetic head coach named Mike Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski has never embraced a student group like he did BOG before or since, though no other organization has ever been quite like the disorganized band of gentlemen who enjoyed the confines of Cameron in their drunkenness, and in doing so, accidentally became the first Cameron Crazies.

“Low attendance forces Duke Athletics to sell student seats,” -The Chronicle, Jan. 24, 2012.

The marketing arm of the Duke athletic department has tried everything short of hiring actors to fill the consistently half-full student section, offering free team merchandise and Bojangles’ biscuits—as long as it doesn’t conflict with the historic Cameron atmosphere. In practice, this means the students—the band, the cheerleaders and the Crazies themselves—are almost solely responsible for noisemaking. “Every other school in the country is playing canned music during timeouts, doing cheesy promotions,” says Director of Marketing and Relations Mike Forman. “We try to stay away from that.”

Forman’s team has given Cameron as modern a feel as a 70-year-old bandbox can have, incorporating highlight videos, drawn-out player introductions and popular music into the pregame festivities. But the case of the disappearing undergraduates is more complex than Rihanna vs. Fergie. The school now sells up to 400 tickets per game out of the 1,200-seat undergraduate section to boosters. Part of the decline is simply attributable to an Atlantic Coast Conference-wide trend. Only the University of North Carolina has seen steady attendance rates; the conference as a whole has seen steadily decreasing numbers since 2008. Plus, every one of Duke’s games is televised, so students can watch without leaving their rooms.

“It does take a lot to go to K-Ville and wait outside, sometimes in the cold and in the rain, and then go into Cameron where you have to stand and jump up and down,” says Ellie Garrett, last year’s co-head line monitor, whose job was to maintain the sanctity of the student line. “Students need to realize that going to Cameron is an awesome experience.”

But the modern Cameron experience is nearly unrecognizable to Boggers, who used to arrive early enough to secure the seats directly behind the visiting team’s bench. At first, Boggers were separated from the court by only two rows of opposing fans, which wasn’t enough to keep the mob from wreaking havoc on their opponents. Boggers were worst during timeouts, when they upped their game to make sure the visiting coach couldn’t convey any game plan to his players. Lefty Driesell, the then-Maryland head coach, eventually moved his timeout huddle onto the middle of the court to escape the deluge.

“Whatever was happening in Cameron, BOG usually took it one step further,” said Wasiolek, the current assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Driesell, a Duke alum, was the best sport of all the regular visitors to Cameron, regularly engaging the students while his team warmed up on the court. Once, he responded to repeated barbs about his baldness by bringing a comb out of the locker room and running it over his hairless head in front of the Boggers. Others weren’t as understanding. Former Virginia head coach Terry Holland once refused to bring his team back to Durham until Duke provided his players, coaches and fans with some level of protection from the rowdy bunch, a demand that prompted the Duke administration to take action. A two-row buffer zone of pacifist resident assistants was inserted behind the opposing fans and in front of BOG’s new section. But when that measure only increased the Boggers’ desire and need to get closer to the court, a railing—guarded at all times by a police officer—was inserted to physically bar Boggers from slipping down the bleachers undetected.

“They were the entertainers of the entertainment,” Krzyzewski wrote in an email. “They were in the middle of everything. I know they created a lot of angst and were a cause of concern at times, but overall, they were great.”

BOG was better than anyone at toeing the line between funny and offensive, but sometimes they pushed the envelope too far. In 1984, Maryland star Herman Veal had been accused of sexual misconduct shortly before the Terrapins faced the Blue Devils in Cameron. The Cameron Crazies, led by Boggers, filled hundreds of unwrapped condoms with SuperBalls and sent them bouncing around the court, followed by a wave of panties. During the game, the students chanted R-A-P-E around the four sides of the court. Their antics got the attention of Washington Post sportswriter Tony Kornheiser, who wrote a column criticizing the Cameron Crazies.

“There’s nothing wrong with majoring in a little smartass, in my opinion,” says Chris Brice, BOG president in 1986, referring to the most memorable barb in Kornheiser’s piece. “[But] there’s a line between clever and rude. I don’t think we were doing the young woman... any favors that day.”

The incident sparked the University’s first major reaction to over-the-line Craziness. Then-President Terry Sanford sent a letter to the student body entitled, “An Avuncular Letter,” which laid out general guidelines for how they should act at basketball games. “We can cheer and taunt with style; that should be the Duke trademark. Crudeness, profanity, and cheapness should not be our reputation — but it is... Think of something clever but clean, devastating but decent, mean but wholesome, witty and forceful but G-rated for television, and try it at the next game.”

The University also, with the help of Associated Students of Duke University—which would later become Duke Student Government—established a group of students to regulate what was becoming the budding problem of overnight lines. At the time, the line monitors’ role was minimal: If a student line formed, help keep it orderly before the students were let into the stadium. One of the first overnight lines for a basketball game during Krzyzewski’s tenure came as the young head coach was preparing for his first marquee home game—a regular season finale against North Carolina. The Blue Devils were ranked No. 15 nationally and led by a talented group of sophomores—Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, David Henderson and Jay Bilas. But No. 1 North Carolina was a juggernaut, one of the best college basketball teams ever assembled, featuring eight future NBA players—including Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins. Duke would hang with the Tar Heels until the game’s second overtime, when it finally ran out of gas.

Within two years, though, Krzyzewskiville had become a fully operational tent city, nearly filling the football field-sized quad. Boggers, along with a group of Mirecretians—members of the co-ed selective living group Mirecourt—and Air Force ROTC members, settled the area with a week before Duke would play North Carolina in its regular season finale. There were few rules and lots of beer. Better yet, there was the Coach himself, who supplied pizza and other snacks on his own dime.

Today Krzyzewski oversees his kingdom, which now offers all the amenities of an upscale trailer park, from the sixth floor of the Schwartz-Butters building. He entertains his people just once every year, on the night before the Blue Devils play North Carolina.

I moved to Krzyzewskiville on Jan. 23, 2009, exactly six weeks before the Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron. We made the five-minute trip from our dorm in the back of my buddy Nolan’s frail red Toyota pickup, drowning in sleeping bags. The night dropped below freezing as we made our midnight arrival, leaving us to clumsily assemble our tent with bloodless fingers in the sterile orange glow of the overhead lights. There were 96 of us that first night, filling 12 tents spread across the sparsely sodded quad, spaced far enough apart to avoid all but the loudest snores from our neighbors. We were mostly freshmen, too caught up in the mythology of “tenting” to wonder why only a handful of upperclassmen were out there with us. We wouldn’t have cared anyway. That first week was everything I had expected it to be, a Five 5-Hour-Energy-fueled montage of 3 a.m. tent repairs in freezing rain as we argued the deservedness of our respective Eagle Scout awards, passive-aggressive comments about the one guy who never showed up to his tent shift, blurry chemistry lectures behind shriveled and dry contact lenses, and proud phone calls home to my increasingly horrified mother.

My first personal interaction with Krzyzewski came not as a Crazie, though, but as a student reporter for The Chronicle. I sat on the end of the third of four rows in the Bill Brill Media Room in Cameron, a room that comfortably seats about 30 people—or less than half of the media contingent at a Duke-North Carolina game—for his preseason press conference. I did not grow up watching Duke basketball, so I had very little preconceived opinion of Krzyzewski besides the caricatured stereotypes presented by his lovers and haters. And maybe the chasmic difference between the way he is characterized across Tobacco Road is deserved, since Krzyzewski lives in a binary world. You are either on his team, or, well, you can get the hell out. His “team” encompasses not just the basketball program, or even the athletics department, but the entire school. When he spoke to the tenters on the eve of the 2012 Duke-North Carolina game in Cameron, he urged the students to step up and do their part for the Blue Devil team, an army thousands strong.

“Finding the right leader on the court,” -The Chronicle, Oct. 18, 2011.

The 2011-12 campaign was one of the most contentious in recent memory between Krzyzewski and his team in the stands. Krzyzewski entered the season fearing students had unreasonable expectations for the young players on his official roster. The circumstances were right for a letdown. After three straight 30-win seasons—highlighted by a national championship—students were willing to overlook a plethora of roster question marks to sharpie the Blue Devils into the Final Four. It didn’t matter that the team had graduated arguably its most talented group of seniors ever and the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft—Duke needed to keep winning. Worst of all, Krzyzewski believed the students had begun “taking winning for granted,” and there is nothing worse than not pulling your weight as a member of his team.

Still, Krzyzewski considers the Crazies to be a vital part of his success; he has a vein in his forehead reserved exclusively for them. If they go quiet, he stomps out onto the “Coach K Court” floor graphic and screams at them like they are responsible for the missed free throw. He and his assistants have what appears to be a choreographed move, in which K, standing a few feet in front, hulks up while Wojciechowski and Collins pound their palms into the floor.

As the coaching staff gets louder, however, the fans have gotten quieter, leaving Garrett and last season’s co-head line monitor Bobby DiMaiolo facing what are likely the biggest challenges ever faced by those with their title.

The pair worked closely with Forman and the marketing department to get students to turn out for basketball games—a new aspect of the line monitor position.

The marketing team meets 10 days before every home game to approximate the number of undergraduates they think will attend based on a variety of factors, including game time, day of the week, and major campus events like fraternity and sorority rush. Iron Dukes—yearly donors to the athletic department—get the first shot at general admission tickets, offered at $65 apiece. “It has nothing to do with the revenue. We just want it to be full,” Forman said. “If there were 1,200 students every game we would love it.”

There aren’t 1,200 students, though, and for most games the number isn’t even close. Their absence has never been as noticeable as this season, which made Garrett’s life exponentially more stressful.

“It’s a full-time job, “ she says. “It’s definitely not what I expected.”

“When should a living group cease to exist?” -The Chronicle, April 13, 2000

Even as it occupied high-level positions across the undergraduate landscape, BOG still managed to find itself in hot water with the administration on a near-constant basis. Brice describes the year he was president as happening while the group was on “double-secret probation.” The Monday night keggers, garbage bins full of grain alcohol, and their trademark August “Oh Damn, We’re Back!” party were more than enough to put them under the watchful eye of Wasiolek and her staff. On more than one occasion they converted their dorm section into a water slide, soaping up plastic sheets and gliding down the hallway.

“That stuff is harmless—if you take responsibility,” Brice says. “If you leave that stuff for the housing team to clean up, you deserve a kick in the rear end. And that’s sometimes where we had our shortcomings, but those things are a lot of fun.”

The administration could live with that side of BOG, but by the end of the 1980s the group had evolved into something much darker. Less interested in being immersed in general campus life, Boggers became notorious not for being outspoken, but for one of their most subversive activities. Within their section of Few dorm, several rooms were set apart, straddling a corner removed from the rest of the group. Boggers called it the Boulevard. The rooms became the most sought-after living spaces in the house despite the unwritten burden of occupying the space. Boulevard residents were expected to create the filthiest living conditions they could withstand, filling the hallway with urine and excrement instead of soapy water. The tradition continued for several years despite repeated and increasing punishment doled out by Wasiolek and the student affairs staff.

“There was maybe no balancing voice,” Brice said. “For whatever reason, within the dorm no one was saying, ëHey, maybe we need to dial it back. We need to restrain a little bit here.’ In the end, it’s too bad.”

BOG was equally troublesome on the basketball court, where after initially responding favorably to Sanford’s letter they had completely reversed course toward the inappropriate. Families of opposing players had become the ones subject to the brunt of Bogger abuse, more than the players of the court.

“It started with what I would call good, clean fun and evolved into something that was somewhat ugly, threatening, inappropriate and came to the point of being viewed as a negative,” Wasiolek says. “You could call it just crossing the line into bad fan behavior.”

When Wasiolek ran out from behind the curtain, though, she had prepared herself with two deterrents: A bag of candy and a BOG sweatshirt. The hoodie was a loaner from the only Bogger who would still talk to her—a name she can’t remember. Wasiolek made a beeline for the opposing bench as soon as she made the big reveal, thrusting the “BOG” written in block letters at the students sitting behind them. It was a brash move, but one that could not, and would not, fail.

“They went crazy good, good crazy. Yelling and screaming and ‘BOG, BOG, BOG,’” Wasiolek recalls. “Then I started tossing candy to them.... And that was it.”

The moment would prove to be one of the final positive experiences Wasiolek had with Boggers. The final of what Brice terms “a thousand pinpricks” came in the spring of 1992, when BOG was officially disbanded. The exact circumstances around the departure are unclear, but the prevailing rumor is perhaps even more revealing than the truth. The group had adapted to campus-wide keg restrictions by sneaking kegs into the dorm under the dark of night, hiding them in the abandoned space next to the narrow staircase in the entry hallway. It was the kind of low-risk, high-reward gamble that Duke’s own Animal House could get away with, at least until an overzealous maintenance man decided to check the room’s heater on an April Friday, so the story goes.

Already on probation for hosting a party that peaked when Boggers were caught playing Donkey Kong on a second-floor hallway—a game that involved trying to reach the top of a stairway while Boggers rolled empty kegs down in defense—BOG knew their time had come. What exactly transpired behind closed doors at the resulting administrative hearing is hotly contested, but according to several sources, the conversation was less than five minutes long and went something like this:

“What were you guys doing with a keg in section?”

“We had no idea it was there! The room is vacant, it must have been sitting there for two years [before the campus keg ban was instituted].”

“The keg we found was packed in ice.”

“Look, sir, I can’t explain the science behind it, but...”

And that was that.


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