Where were you for the Duke-UNC game?
That question means everything to a Blue Devil, and some students go to great lengths—from months in tents to days in lines—to make sure the answer is “Cameron Indoor Stadium” on game day. But only 9,314 people can be inside the hallowed walls.
For every triumphant entry into the game, there are plenty of devastated fans left looking in.
Last school year, some Duke students tented to get into the game. Some waited in the walk-up line. Others snuck in. This is the story of the latter.
The names of one of the Blue Devils whose stories is told in this article has been changed—they agreed to tell me their story on the condition of anonymity out of concern of potential disciplinary action. The other is named.
Undergraduate entrance into Duke basketball games is regulated by a group of students known as line monitors. They have their hands full during the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill game, but senior Steve Hassey, this year's co-head line monitor, said he doesn’t think that students sneaking into the game is a huge problem.
“There are definitely a couple people every year who we’ll catch trying to sneak in, and obviously immediately we’ll kick them out of the stadium,” Hassey said. “But it’s never been an overwhelming issue.”
Senior Peter Potash, the other co-head line monitor, agreed.
“Not a lot of people try sneaking in,” Potash said. “And almost all of them that do try, we catch.”
Emphasis on the “almost.”
This wasn’t then-senior Melissa Carrico’s first Duke-UNC game. She got in through the walk-up line two years ago. Last year, she had every intention of getting in in the same way.
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The walk-up line, which was recently discontinued, was the quick-and-dirty version of tenting. On the first day of walk-up, scores of undergraduates would rush to Krzyzewskiville in pairs to reserve a spot in the line. Duos would need to keep at least one member in line for two straight days—day and night, rain or shine— to have a shot of getting into Cameron Indoor Stadium once all the tent groups were inside.
On the first day of walk-up, Carrico’s partner got to K-Ville around 5 a.m, prepared to sacrifice dozens of hours for just two inside Cameron. She got there at 7 a.m. to switch shifts.
Then the first-year guys came. Carrico had expected that a horde of fraternity pledges would try to cut in line and save spots for their older “brothers.” as they had the year before. Despite doing walk-up line last year. she wasn’t ready for what came this year.
“They didn’t care and were a foot taller,” she remembered. “It was terrible. It was horrible.”
She estimated that approximately 100 pairs of guys cut in front of her. She was pushed back and pressed against a fence, incapable of moving for three hours. She tried to weather the storm, even muscling up to push forward a bit. But it wasn’t enough.
After registering with the line monitors, Carrico's group ended up 359th in line. That was bad news—in her experience, 300 groups or fewer get in. She stayed in line and camped in K-Ville for two straight days anyways.
On game day morning, Carrico toured Cameron with her mother. Then she returned to K-Ville, where thousands of students were partying before the game. After a couple hours into the massive tailgate, the time came when all walk-up liners would learn whether they'd make it into the big game. Everyone in the walk-up line gathered together by the line monitors, eager with anticipation and hope. Carrico got rowdy; the crowd got rowdier, eager with anticipation and hope.
This year, lineup time was a drunken, rowdy trainwreck in which beer bottles and arm chairs became weapons, and the line monitors became enemies of the (very drunk, very rowdy) people. Duke Student Government and the line monitors discontinued walk-up in response.
Sitting in her apartment as she tells me about her game day experience, Carrico explained why she thinks this year’s walk-up line on game day went wrong.
“Because no one at Duke can be sober for anything, especially when they have to talk to a peer,” she said.
Carrico walked into the kitchen, made herself another mixed drink and continued talking to me, her peer. She was heading to a senior darty—a daytime party—after the interview.
As the situation escalated, police decided it would be unsafe to let the uncontrollable line into Cameron. They went with the nuclear option: no one gets in. Walk-up liners saw injustice. Police and administration saw a boozed-up mob. As a beer-fueled riot ensued, Carrico saw an opportunity. She grabbed her walk-up line partner, who confirmed the story.
“We are going to the game,” Carrico recounted saying. “Follow me, stay close.”
In the midst of mayhem, she found one of the many blue buckets of paint floating around Krzyzewskiville. She painted over the “3” on her wristband. As far as anyone could tell, she now belonged to group 59. She covered the rest of her arms in blue for good measure.
To appease the mob, the cops started letting kids in. Just outside of Cameron, dozens of administrators, security guards, law enforcement officers and line monitors were struggling to check bands and create some order in the line.
When a line monitor called for group 59, she ran forward. She got past that first line monitor. Then the she got past a second. Security stopped her as she went through the metal detector because she was wearing a fanny pack. She told them it contained epipens. They profusely apologized, and she moved on with determination.
At the next stop, an administrator Carrico knew was checking wristbands. She greeted them, and they let her pass.
Carrico moved toward the last checkpoint, the arched wooden doors of Cameron. With flashlights and a piercing voice, the guard at the entry demanded to see bands. As she passed, the guard stopped her. With all the power four years of acting at Duke had given her, Carrico flashed a smile and threw a Hail Mary.
“You’ve already checked mine!”
The gatekeeper, also caught up in the chaos of the walk-up line, did not question her further. She was in.
The student section was full, so she was given a seat high up in a corner of Cameron’s upper ring. Her view was blocked by a pole, she said, so she and her friends climbed on top of it. She sat in the rafters.
It said “Section 12, Row Q, Seat 19, $0.” Carrico’s walk-up line partner, who verified her account directly to The Chronicle, said that she didn’t feel good about sneaking in.
Carrico felt differently.
“The way I look at it is like, I really don’t think we took spots from people in Cameron. We were in rafters. I’m so happy I did it,” she said. “I have wondered about the legal implications because these tickets are worth so much money. But it was my last chance, and if that meant I had to scheme and lie…” She paused and smiled. “I’d do it again.”
‘I think they’re cheating everyone who tents’
Sneaking in has consequences.
Hassey explained he thinks it hurts the tenting system.
“I think they’re cheating everyone who tents,” Hassey said. “It’s something that is honestly kind of upsetting for me.”
But tenters aren’t the only ones who could be affected. Those who sneak in risk getting in trouble.
Bob Weiseman, senior associate director of athletics and athletic facilities, game operations and championships, told The Chronicle that information on potential punishments for sneaking in ”is not information we release.”
Not everyone sneaks in like Carrico did, though. Mike DeGeorge, director of sports information, responded to a question about the punishment for those who pretend to have credentials they do not—like posing as journalists—to sneak in.
“Any unauthorized use [of credentials] subjects the bearer to ejection from the stadium and prosecution for criminal trespass,” DeGeorge wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Our second fan, who we’ll call Liza, couldn’t tent and didn’t have time to stand in line. She decided to go to the game anyway.
On the morning of game day, Liza and her friends headed to the University Store. There, they bought Duke Basketball polos. The girls stored the shirts in their locker room—they are athletes—and went to the K-Ville party.
Ninety minutes before tipoff, Liza and her friends went back to the locker room and disguised themselves. They put on their polos, grabbed journals and tucked pens behind their ears. For the next few hours, as far as Liza was concerned, she was a reporter for Duke’s student newspaper—The Chronicle.
The girls headed for the Michael Krzyzewski Center, Duke’s athletes-only study building, which they had access to. Their plan centered around the connection between the K-Center to Cameron. They would get into the building, cross over into the arena and stay in the student section as “Chronicle journalists.”
Outside the doors of the K-Center, disaster struck: a guard had the place on lockdown. Challenge one. Liza talked to the guard.
“Look, we are writers for The Chronicle and our laptops are in there,” she said. “We have to get through.”
The guard hesitated for a second, then let them through.
The crew of imposters entered the K-Center inside, got in the elevator and mentally prepared to face more guards as they rode to the bottom. The doors opened. The coast was clear. Only busied basketball managers filled the hall.
Next step: get to the court. Below the K-Center and close enough to hear a thousand Duke students cursing the Tar Heels, Liza said that she started testing doors. On the other side of one she found the blue-light filled player tunnel and a waiting security guard.
“Sorry, wrong door!” she said.
Liza says she closed it quickly and continued down the hallway, dodging managers and (real) reporters while making casual small talk with smiling security staff. Then, she tried another door. It opened to Cameron’s lobby, where a wave of graduate students were flooding into the arena. She hopped in.
Liza rode the wave all the way onto the court, where she turned and headed for the undergraduate student section. There, she found her friends and celebrated her victory. Until the line monitors saw her.
When the line monitors spotted Liza and her friends, she took off. I know she did, because she ran toward me and hid among my tent group. Her friends weren’t as lucky. They were caught and then questioned by a police officer. They had prepared for questioning earlier by looking up and memorizing the name of The Chronicle’s then-Sports Editor, Hank Tucker.
However, a slip of the tongue doomed them as they they tried to convince the officer of the authenticity of their fake identities. Liza said their alibi sounded like this: “No, literally, we are writers for The Chronicle. We will call Tom Hanks!”
It didn’t work. The other girls were kicked out.
A security guard came to find Liza. She hid within the tightly packed student section. The guard left. And, 20 minutes till tip off, things looked good for Liza. Until a line monitor showed up and asked where her wrist band was.
To make sure no one snuck in, the line monitors had been checking wrist bands inside the student section. Liza didn’t have a band. She was toast. Improvising, Liza turned to me and the rest of my group and feigned outrage.
“I told Steven not to rip off my band!” she shouted.
The line monitor, smirking at the mediocre-at-best fib, let Liza know that it was fine if her band fell off—there was a database with the name of every tenter on it, and if Liza was on the list, she could stay in the student section. The line monitor scrolled through the list of registered tenters. Liza froze. Seconds passed like minutes. She, of course, was not on the list.
Before Liza could run, the line monitor grabbed her and headed towards the door. But Liza wasn’t giving up yet. Liza was in front of the line monitor as the two walked off the court. She sped up and got ahead of her captor. Then, as a last ditch effort, she turned into the bathroom and hid in a stall.
Trapped in a stall after assuming a new identity, convincing guards she was a journalist and escaping the wrath of a line monitor, Liza was out of options.
She says that on the floor of the stall next to her, a girl was passed out. Liza said she helped the girl while someone got a medic, who rushed into the bathroom and told Liza to make sure only medical staff came in. After making sure the girl was in stable condition, the medic checked the unresponsive girl’s wristband, located her tent number and told Liza to find the girl’s friends in the student section, according to Liza.
She ran up to the security guard defending the door to the court.
“Where is your band?” Liza said he asked her.
Liza pointed to a medic behind her and explained that she was told to go into the student section and find the sick girl’s friends.
The guard let her through. She says that she ran onto the court, cut into the student section, and found the unresponsive girl’s tent-mates. She told them about their friend, pointed them towards the bathroom and started heading for the door. Then she realized where she was.
There were two minutes until tip-off. Liza stopped moving for the door and stayed put in the student section. A minute later, “Everytime We Touch” came on.
“And I was there until the end of the game,” she said. “And it was hype as hell.”