‘Total chaos’: How the North Carolina walk-up line devolved into a drunken mob

Students eating signs. Throwing full beer cans. Keeled over, vomiting in the bushes. Threatening others with table legs. And finally, two drunken mobs.

Welcome to Krzyzewskiville. 

It’s March 3, the day all of Duke has been waiting for: Carolina gameday. Students have been waiting for months in tents to get into Cameron Indoor Stadium. The phenomenon known as ‘K-Ville’ appears on a grassy quad outside the entrance to the stadium, before Blue Devil men’s basketball home games—and is always raucous. 

This year, something was wildly different. 

A mob of students in the walk-up line, which also convenes on the plaza outside Cameron just days before the game for those who don’t want to commit to living under a glorified sheet of plastic for months, erupted. Some were trampled and barricades were cast aside as students broke free in a drunken rush to try and get into the game. 

So how did all of the norms of civility break down at one of the nation’s top universities? The Chronicle spoke with more than a dozen people involved with the walk-up line—administrators, students and line monitors—to find out. 

‘At any point, the rules could be discarded’: How the madness started

The tent city outside one of the most storied venues in college basketball had been standing since early January and has a penchant for rowdiness even months before the game. 

Heavy drinking is extremely common, if not expected, to get through long nights in the cold—on any day of the week—while waiting for the piercing wail of sirens signaling a tent check. 

They come in the dead of the night to ensure that no one has skimped out and spent the night in the comfort of their own dorm room. Some opt to just stay up until those checks, sometimes making a ruckus that prevents others in tents just inches away from sleeping.

So who’s organizing all of this? A group of 31 Duke students: line monitors. Spot them on ESPN on the sideline, toting a baby doll with devil horns, blue and white pinstripe overalls or...anything, really. When there’s not a game going on, they register tenters and those who wish to walk up to the game and monitor the various lines to get into home games. While intoxication is the norm, serious safety issues with the line have been rare, if not non-existent.  

But the Tuesday before the North Carolina game, walk-up liners imported another level of madness into K-Ville. Walk-up line officially started on the Wednesday prior to Saturday’s game at noon, but eager walk-up liners started joining an unofficial line as early as Tuesday.

Soon, swarms of students took over the line, which line monitors advertised as self-policing until the official registration started at noon. 

Very little, if any self-policing ended up happening, according to co-head line monitor Sara Constand and several walk-up liners with whom The Chronicle spoke. 

Hoards of students were mashed up in more of a blob than a line, hoping to get a chance to get in. Many were laying in sleeping bags on a muddy slope. Students set up tables to play beer pong and other drinking games, eventually leaving trash and crumpled blue Keystone cans littering the wet earth. 

Cutting became rampant. 

“You can't have people self-regulating themselves for the first 24 hours,” said first-year Daniel Landa, also a writer in The Chronicle's sports department. “That’s what started the whole mess.” 

One walk-up liner, a senior and fraternity brother who declined to be named because he has friends that are line monitors, set up camp on that Tuesday in the early evening in relatively good position. There were just 40 groups, or roughly 80 people, in front of him and his group in line. Walk-up line groups are just two people each, with one of the two required to be in line at all times. He established his position with friends to make up multiple groups and spent much of the evening there until his shift was up and others in his group took over for the night. 

At this point, line monitors were in K-Ville, but it was technically the unofficial line. When his walk-up line group woke up in the morning, they found themselves hundreds of groups further back than where they started—and highly unlikely to get into Cameron. 

So, instead of accepting their fate, the senior and his friends decided to “counter-cut,” as he put it—they were worried about not getting into the game.

“It was cut or be cut. I know plenty of people that showed up the night we did and should have been in the 40’s or 50’s and ended up in the 400’s and didn’t make it into the game,” he said. 

After their cutting, they ended up being much further back. He blamed the line monitors for not enforcing the cutting, even though it was out of their jurisdiction at that point. 

Constand said they were surprised about the amount of people that showed up, even though it was clearly advertised that the line would not officially start until Wednesday.

But she was the most surprised about their inability to form a simple line.  

“People across the country line up for iPhones in sidewalks and cities in more respectful ways and are humane to one another,” Constand said. “Somehow, Duke students at a top-10 school weren’t able to do that.”

Starting the next morning around 9, a swarm of cutting crusaders arrived. 

There is a particularly large fraternity presence in walk-up line—and Delta Tau Delta brother Andrew Bates blames fraternity members for most of the cutting at this time. They even cut their own new members, he said. 

“This set off a rather hostile environment in the walk-up line, with some people blaming the line monitors and some blaming 'the frats,'” Bates wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “But the real blame lies somewhere in the middle, and ought not be dumped on fraternities in general.”

A scathing op-ed in The Chronicle from line monitor Jaxson Floberg read that fraternity brothers have made walk-up line “essentially inhospitable to anyone who doesn’t want to be at a frat party.” 

Many fraternities put pledges in line to wait for their upperclassmen, who show up later, he said. Constand recalls an instance in which two pledges were holding a spot in line for roughly 30 people that showed up Wednesday morning. 

By 10 a.m, line monitors began to set out barricades to organize the line ahead of its official start at noon. Constand said that the barricades were a new addition this year to try to add some semblance of order to the line. But the cutting didn’t stop—and the line monitors did nothing to end it.  

The same senior in the walk-up line recalls one student who jumped over the barricades, right in front of a line monitor. Another walk-up liner in front of him had been trying to convince the line monitor to stop the cutting just minutes prior, and the line monitor went up to talk to the cutter. 

After talking to the cutter for a few seconds, the line monitor gave the cutter a high-five handshake and left. 

“He just dapped him up and let him go,” a different senior in the same walk-up line group said. “That’s a pretty clear endorsement of some pretty sh---y behavior.” 

Some in the line believed that the line monitors’ decision not to intervene in cutting set a dangerous norm that caused many of the problems that surfaced later in the week. 

“From a very early point, it set a precedent that at any point, the rules could be discarded,” the senior walk-up line member said. “When Wednesday noon came along, people who jumped barricades were numbered as if they were originally there standing up.”

After registration, walk-up line went smoothly for the rest of the week. Routine line checks went with ease, and walk-up liners got grace to go home at night due to low temperatures. They stayed until Friday at noon, when the walk-up line officially ended after just 48 hours.

Then came gameday. And boy, did it come with a roar. 


The Battle of the Keystones

It’s no secret: Duke students like to party. The appropriately named Cameron Crazies are by no means an exception. 

Without a cloud in the sky on a balmy Durham Saturday, it felt like the entire school was out in K-Ville. Beer pong and every drinking game under the sun were being played amongst a sea of blue. At a school in which social life is heavily segregated by Greek organizations and selective living groups, it is a rare open phenomenon where all groups can mingle. 

“It’s a great event for Duke because it’s pretty open,” Landa said. “There were no exclusive areas, which was nice to see.”

Fraternities built elevated surfaces on the worn-out grass up to five feet high out of wooden pallets, letting people dance, probably to The Killers’ "Mr. Brightside" more often than not. On a sunny afternoon, fraternities flew their flags high and most people drank—perhaps with some other substances—to their heart’s content. 

“It provided the perfect darty vibe for the fraternities,” Constand said. 

And it started early. 

Walk-up liners were told they were to receive their wristbands after ESPN’s College Gameday wrapped up in Cameron. After they eventually got wristbands around noon, it was showtime. 

“Handing out wristbands in K-Ville seven or eight hours before tipoff was a ludicrous idea that ensured the maximum level of blackout drinking for all parties involved,” Bates wrote. 

According to two senior fraternity brothers, an all-out full beer can war raged. And it all started because of a mistaken shot heard ‘round K-Ville. 

At one point during the festivities, a fraternity brother went up onto an elevated surface and “Stone Cold Steve Austin’ed” two beers. The move, dubbed after a WWE fighter and consisting of cracking open two cans, smashing them together above your head and then chugging them, all whilst crushing the cans, had some unintended consequences. 

One of the cans hit a member of a different fraternity, who misinterpreted it as an act of aggression. The two fraternities then got into a back-and-forth aerial assault with full beer cans. 

“A beer hit me in the left arm. It was like it just fell out of the sky,” the senior fraternity brother said. “It hurt, but it was funnier than it was painful. TFM could have picked it up because it was that ridiculous.” 

Separate from this incident, the fraternity that got struck first went after another fraternity. This time, the target was another fraternity’s beer pong table. The fraternity sent brothers on a mission to break it, attempting to use the “People’s Elbow” to do so. The move was popularized by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson during his WWE years—he kicked his right leg up and threw his elbow down on his opponents' heart.

Unfortunately for that fraternity, the table didn’t succumb to the elbow. 

“That caused a bit of a scuffle. It was all pretty funny as a bystander, to be honest,” the senior said. 

That wasn’t all for the shenanigans in K-Ville that day. Sophomore Cade McCurdy said he saw one guy throw cold pizza slices, frisbee-style into the crowd. Another threw empty plastic alcohol handles into the crowd. Both for no apparent reason. 

“The tailgate this year was hardly different from years past, or even from other tailgates this year—lots of heavy drinking, cans everywhere and big crowds,” Bates wrote. 

But the need for medical attention for drunkenness was at a level not usually seen, even for K-Ville, according to David Mallen, assistant director of the Duke Wellness Center. There were four alcohol-related EMS incidents on North Carolina gameday—higher than what Mallen has traditionally seen “due to the calls for the walk-up line.”

Senior line monitor and co-vice president of gameday operations Ali Wisner said she saw several people keeled over and vomiting in bushes by K-Ville. 

The senior fraternity brother said that he thought the pregame in K-Ville was rowdier than in years past because of the way that the walk-up line was handled—walk-up liners let out their frustration with drinking. 

According to the line monitors’ policies, K-Ville residents are “expected to adhere to all university policies ​relating to the consumption and distribution of alcohol.” That includes the University’s policy prohibiting drinking games and glass containers. Hard liquor was flowing openly throughout the afternoon—something banned in the University’s policies. 

But seemingly little was done to enforce these policies, according to many who were in K-Ville. John Dailey, chief of Duke police, said in an email that alcohol policy is enforced “administratively”—by departments other than police. He did not respond in time for publication to a follow-up question about which department specifically is to enforce alcohol policy. 

“The police can only enforce obvious violations of the NC law,” Dailey wrote. 

The Chronicle also asked in that follow-up email whether being drunk and disorderly would be an enforceable violation of North Carolina law and if DUPD observed any drunk and disorderly people in K-Ville on gameday. Dailey also did not respond in time for publication. 

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta declined to comment when asked who is supposed to enforce alcohol policy after The Chronicle said that Dailey said it was enforced ‘administratively.’

“The policy exists precisely because people fail to pace themselves; letting them self-police does absolutely nothing,” Bates wrote. “An unenforced alcohol policy is no policy at all.”

Constand said it is not the line monitors’ job to enforce alcohol policy—something unrealistic and outside of their jurisdiction. 

“It’s tough to be out there, where all your friends are and tell them, 'No, you can’t drink.' People don’t respect that, especially if they’ve seen you at parties before,” Wisner added. “There’s a certain amount of authority in having an adult telling you not to drink as opposed to a student.”

The line monitors asked for support from the administration in enforcing alcohol policy, but were denied. Associate Dean of Students Clay Adams met with Constand in December, when she requested support from “A-Team” in enforcing alcohol policy. 

A-team is comprised of student, faculty and administration volunteers who Constand says enforce alcohol policy and monitor safety on LDOC—one of the biggest drinking days of the year on campus. A-Team also helps ensure safety at the postgame bonfire on the main quad if Duke beats North Carolina. 

Adams said he denied Constand’s request for A-team support in K-Ville and cited the Bonfire Safety Program document, saying that A-team’s scope on March 3 was limited to “limited to ensuring the safe and successful execution of an approved bonfire.” Constand said she explained to Adams that she didn’t think the bonfire was as much of an alcohol risk as K-Ville. 

When asked why he denied the request, he simply said A-team is “not available to K-Ville.” Constand said that Adams rejected her request for A-team support in alcohol policy enforcement in K-Ville because not enough people would volunteer.

When asked if this was true, Adams said he didn’t remember the specifics of the conversation because it was in “mid-December.” Constand provided emails documenting that they met in October. When told this, Adams said he was "guessing" on the exact date. 

Moneta did not answer a question from The Chronicle in an email directly asking if A-team should have supported line monitors. 

“The only thing we wish we could have done differently was harping a bit more on the administration to get their help,” co-head line monitor David Duquette said. “We made the effort to talk to admin to try and get A-team out there during the walk-up line and Carolina gameday to get resources for water and food, anything really to help out with that, because we don’t think it’s possible for a team of 30 students to police thousands of their peers.” 

Mallen thinks the key to reducing the number of incidents isn’t in stricter enforcement, but helping students learn how to drink more safely. 

“This really isn't a question about enforcement by any one authority or another because that takes the focus off of the individual’s responsibility to celebrate safely and places it on another person to look after them,” Mallen said. “Our goal has been to inform individuals about safer strategies toward drinking and how to actively take care of themselves and others.”

He added that line monitors participated in DuWell's social responsibility training, and DuWell provided signage that promoted "safer drinking strategies." 

‘You’re such a b****. You don’t know what you’re doing at all.’

Getting the walk-up line in the game has always been the most chaotic part of K-Ville for line monitors. 

In 2017, Constand said line monitors faced a similar mob scene, though not close to the same extent. That year, walk-up liners walked up on the grass area where tents are pitched, but formed nothing close to a line—more of a blob. 

From there, line monitors had to call out individual groups one-by-one in order—a total mess. 

This year, the line monitors tried to remedy some of the anarchy by erecting barricades by the tennis courts adjacent to K-Ville to form narrow rows where walk-up liners could stand up. 

Once again, the changes didn’t stop the drunken mass of chaos. 

While tenters were entering Cameron, the line monitors tried to organize walk-up line groups in groups of 75 in the barricades, lined up side-by-side between metal dividers. But there was some confusion as to which line was which—the sign for groups 1-75 was on the first barricade, but 76-150 was on the third barricade, one senior walk-up line member said. He also declined to be named due to friendships with line monitors. 

The senior said he went up to Floberg and told him that it could have been confusing for walk-up liners to understand where to congregate and predicted that a mob scene would ensue. Floberg shrugged him off, the senior said. 

That conversation was overheard by who the senior said was the rowdiest member of the walk-up line. He ripped the sign off the barricade and took a bite out of the corner of it. 

“I have no idea about the specific question being asked. Line monitors are being asked hundreds of questions just walking by the line,” Floberg said. “Half of them are like ‘are we going to get in’ so it just becomes desensitizing to hear people asking questions. If you hear someone say that they’re confused about where to line up, I’m going to help as much as possible.”

Floberg agreed that it was confusing because the signs were not centered, and said he tried his best to communicate to the 800 registered walk-up liners. He used a bullhorn to tell people when to go and went around to the back of the line to move people back to let more in. They didn’t listen and ended up packed near the front. 

“People just look at you and don’t do anything,” Floberg said. “When you have 400 extremely drunk and stressed people trying to get into this game, it becomes extremely tough to communicate messages to them.”

Floberg was one of just three line monitors stationed at the barricades—one more than is typical, Constand said. Along with a couple of colleagues, Dean Sue Wasiolek also came and stood with the line monitors while walk-up liners were assembling in the barricades after hearing about the chaos. Wasiolek was on her way from East Campus to West Campus when she heard of the rowdiness and called on some of her colleagues to come assist her. 

When the line monitors called for the first section of walk-up liners, from 1-75, chaos reigned. Some who were confused as to which line they were supposed to be in saw people in their group going ahead and decided they had to follow, the senior said. Then, people in the second line, 76-150, saw people in their line leaving, so they believed they had to go to earn a spot too, the senior said. 

This created the first mob—the “mini mob,” as McCurdy called it. He said people also believed that they could get in regardless of the order on their wristband, incentivizing people to just make a run for it. 

The second group of walk-up liners knocked down the barricades and rushed to the end of the line for tenters—closer to the metal detectors. 

“It’s strange to me because there shouldn’t be any confusion as to your place in line—it’s on your wristband,” Floberg said. “We’re standing there calling out the group that should be going right now. It’s hard to explain the confusion because it doesn’t seem like there should be any confusion. But in those high-pressure situations, people panic.”

And the panic didn’t stop for anything. 

When the mob rushed the back of the tenting line, Wisner got caught up in the jumble. The first group tried to push its way forward and the second group came running behind them—sending her to the dirt. The 5-foot flat line monitor got trampled by the stampede. 

“I’ve never seen anything like that at Duke,” Wisner said. “We always expect it to be crazy, but nothing like this. I had some pretty bad bruises.”

Some good samaritans did end up helping her get up—then she took to the top of a trash can to try to control the crowd, shouting orders from a megaphone. 

Somehow, the “mini” mob was just the beginning. 

Once this mob formed, captain Shannan Tiffin, chief of police, told Constand that no walk-up liners would be let in. Constand announced the decision to the cold, tired crowd of walk-up liners, telling them they should go home. 

“Total chaos ensued,” McCurdy said.

“When they said that, people were just like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve been giving up this whole week and now I won’t be getting into the game,’” Landa said. 

Some followed their orders and headed home, but some tried to push their way through. One senior explained that many tried to get through because they simply didn’t trust the line monitors’ word. 

“A lot of people who were ahead of me left because they decided to listen to the rules. That further points to the fact that the line monitors couldn’t be taken at face value,” he said. 

Athletics staffers and police had to form a human barricade linking arms to prevent hundreds of pushing students packed in a small area from rushing through the metal detectors. 

That didn’t work. The entire walk-up line burst through the barricades, pushing through into the plaza outside Cameron. 

In the process, the line monitors were subject to threats of violence and intimidation. One walk-up liner broke a table, ripped off a metal leg and threatened to strike Constand with it. 

In the midst of trying to stop people from breaking the metal detectors, one man threatened to strike Wisner.  

“This guy said to me, ‘You’re such a b****. You don’t know what you’re doing at all,’” Wisner said. “I was like, 'I’m so sorry, what group number are you?' He was in the 300s. And he was like, 'I’m just going to start punching you or something and maybe they’ll listen and let me in the game.'” 

The line monitors then shouted over megaphone for everyone to get back to the Wilson Gym doors. Few could hear. When they moved back, there were no line monitors there, and people decided to head back to get closer—they believed the line monitors would just let people in regardless of order. 

“We couldn’t trust the line monitors by their word,” the senior explained. “Everyone just kept running up back to the metal detectors.”

After nearly an hour of sorting out the mess, line monitors started letting walk-up liners into Cameron. By then, it was far too late to fill up the student section. Once the game started, Bob Weiseman, associate director of athletics/athletic facilities, game operations and championships closed the doors. Roughly 300 of the 800 that registered got in the game—fewer than in previous years. 

“It’s sad that people think we were intentionally not trying to get people in,” Constand said. “We’ve devoted hundreds of hours of our lives to this. I wish students would be more upset with each other and hold each other accountable as human beings instead of pointing fingers at us.”

What now?

Line monitors are in the process of crafting a new system, working alongside athletic director Kevin White and Moneta. 

“The whole point of the walk-up line is for entry beyond the 1,200 students. 1,200 is guaranteed for the tenters, and the rest is for any remaining spots in Cameron,” Constand said. “There needs to be a new system for filling those remaining spots.”

Constand supports expanding white tenting. She cites the strong interest in white tenting—54 tents were on the waitlist this year. 

Any changes would have to be approved by Duke athletics and administration. Just a few days after the incident, Moneta declined to discuss specific changes. 

“Several of us are still processing the event and determining how best to respond and avoid a recurrence in the future,” Moneta said. “Thus, as we continue our review and planning, I’m unlikely to want to say anything more at this time.”

In an April 6 email to The Chronicle to a series of follow-up questions, Moneta said he had nothing to say at the time because they are "still in discussions." 

After Floberg’s op-ed, entitled “It's time to Kill Walk-Up Line,” was published, many walk-up liners were enraged at the suggestion of getting rid of walk-up line. Assuming the same general time-frame, this action would push the start date back weeks for those who want the least intensive way to get into the game. 

“The walk-up line is important because the spring semester at Duke is the busiest time for job searching, thesis writing and more, and no self-respecting educational institution should force students to spend valuable class, library and even work-study time sitting in a tent in the cold to go to a basketball game,” Bates wrote. “For this reason, expanding tenting is not the answer to fixing WUL.”

Other walk-up liners were more disaffected about the prospect of losing walk-up line. McCurdy felt it wasn’t worth his time—he showed up 10 minutes after official registration began on Wednesday and didn’t get into the game. 

Whatever the fix is, line monitors hope it will be much safer for all involved. 

“It’s come to a point to where it’s not in the best interest of the University, of Duke basketball, of the line monitors and the people in the walk-up line themselves to continue having it this way,” Constand said. 

Ben Leonard profile
Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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