Editor's note: This is part of a series about the Duke men’s basketball walk-up line experience based on a survey conducted by The Chronicle. You can learn more about the methodology and limitations of the survey here, student opinions on the in-game experience here and thoughts on the pregame process here.
In four decades as one of the premier college basketball programs nationally, Duke’s gameday atmosphere—from Cameron Indoor Stadium to its raucous student section—has become just as renowned as the program’s legendary success.
That’s not to say that times haven't changed, however, and the Cameron Crazies have come under some scrutiny in recent years for not having that same fire for every home game.
Over the course of this week leading up to the Blue Devils’ home bout with North Carolina, The Chronicle will release data about student attendance and the factors that explain the concern regarding the Crazies.
The Chronicle gathered data through a survey released to all current Duke students.
The survey was administered from Jan. 30 to Feb. 16, and we received 334 complete responses from verified Duke students. The survey consisted of 40 questions and was distributed via the front page of The Chronicle’s website, the official Facebook groups of every current Duke class, as well as the Facebook group K-Ville Nation, a group for Duke student basketball fans. Some random prizes were awarded to participants
Professor of Statistical Science Jerry Reiter has previously told The Chronicle about the limitations of surveys. He detailed that the reasons some students may opt out of completing the questionnaire—such as a lack of enthusiasm about Duke or not having access to the survey—could skew the results.
Since the survey has more than 30 questions and some students may not have time to complete them all, that situation would not be as likely to dramatically change the results.
Our sample is approximately representative of the Duke undergraduate population, but it has its limitations. In our sample, 86 percent of respondents are enrolled in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and 14 percent are enrolled in the Pratt School of Engineering.
Forty-seven percent of respondents applied to Duke using the Early Decision portal, and Duke was the first-choice school for 61 percent of respondents. Our responses were slightly skewed towards seniors and sophomores, who represented 30 and 25 percent of our responses, respectively, while first-years and juniors each made up 22 percent of the dataset.
This survey also contains responses from a larger proportion of students planning to attend the Duke-North Carolina game than the rest of the Duke undergraduate population. Nearly half of respondents—49 percent—are planning on attending the North Carolina basketball game.
The only way for Duke students to secure a seat in the student section for the rivalry matchup is to sleep in a tent outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium for up to six weeks, depending on how close of a seat they want. More than 20 percent of students who had not attended any games this season at the time of their response were planning to attend the North Carolina game.
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First-year students were the least likely to tent for the game, with only 23 percent stating they were planning on or tenting at the time they took the survey, while seniors were the most likely to tent, with 49 percent planning or tenting when they took the survey.
Top-10 battles and rivalry contests will always be an electric atmosphere for home games, but Duke is currently facing an issue for nonconference and non-marquee ACC matchups. In these games, the student section isn’t full less than 30 minutes before tip-off or is filled with regular fans who bought general admission seating.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski voiced his opinion on the crowd’s energy multiple times in his post-game press conferences, the most notable coming after an incident with the student section against Pittsburgh. During the first half, the Crazies started a chant for Panthers’ head coach Jeff Capel, a former Blue Devil player and coach, to sit with the crowd, a popular chant for potential Duke recruits. Krzyzewski, however, misinterpreted the chant and went over to the students before halftime to tell them to keep quiet about Capel.
“I’ve never heard another coach’s name yelled out in the middle of the first half when we’re at war with another team,” Krzyzewski said after the game Jan. 28. “I thought it was something personal. I apologize to the students for that, but I don’t apologize for the timing. You shouldn’t say that in the middle of the first half of an ACC game.”
The Hall of Famer had more to say after the Blue Devils secured a gritty top-10 win after Florida State and less than 48 hours after an emotional victory over North Carolina.
“I think our fans need to know what the hell happened,” Krzyzewski emphasized after two huge wins in 48 hours. “Not that they weren’t good, but c’mon… You have to be even more appreciative… these kids [the team], it’s their first time. They’re young and they just fought like crazy. There should be [a] standing ovation, we should have been going nuts. That’s not to say our fans are bad, but they’re accustomed to outstanding. And this team is trying to be.”
The students have shown more life as the schedule nears the always-electric home matchup against the Tar Heels, and Krzyzewski has been there to praise the students as well. The 40-year Duke head coach even went over to high-five the student section after Duke’s recent win against North Carolina State.
“I thought the crowd was unbelievable and the energy was more like the Cameron of old, since we said we were going to be old-fashioned,” Krzyzewski said after a Feb. 15 win against Notre Dame. “It was just like an old-fashioned Cameron game, where the crowd and the team were one, and during that magical stretch in the second half where everything just [went] nuts, it was just nuts.”
The Cameron Crazies will likely never return to the days of ‘Speedo Guy’ or throwing pizza boxes at Lorenzo Charles to make fun of his weight. The student section doesn’t have to return to its reputation as crude and funny, but the Crazies still have ample room to get back to the glory days of Cameron Indoor—at least according to Krzyzewski.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said head coach Mike Krzyzewski's quote beginning with "I thought the crowd was unbelievable" came after Duke's Feb. 22 win against Virginia Tech, not Feb. 15 against Notre Dame. The Chronicle regrets the error.