The first Wednesday of white tenting, sophomore Cathy Wang decided to squeeze in some work on a problem set after Duke’s game at North Carolina State University. With only two problems left, she figured she had plenty of time to finish her assignment before night hours began at 1 a.m. in Krzyzewskiville.
She didn’t realize until approximately 2:40 a.m.—when she opened her laptop to missed calls and frantic texts from other tent members and friends in K-Ville—what time it was or that she had missed the start of her tent shift.
“I have three alarms for each of my tent shifts at different times,” Wang said. “My phone died, and I didn’t notice, so my alarms didn’t go off.”
The group had missed a check. It was the morning of Feb. 20, and there was a week of tenting to go.
The next day, the group found out their tent would be Tent 1 for the UNC game. But one more missed check would mean they would lose the top spot—and be bumped to the back of the line.
After a season filled with wind, snow and administrators preventing students from burning benches, Tent 1 will be the first group of 12 students through the doors of Cameron Indoor Stadium when Duke hosts the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Saturday. The students will be rewarded with front-row seats to one of the most famous rivalries in college sports.
The road to the top spot began Jan. 11, when 13 black tents began tenting. It wasn’t always easy.
First, it took weeks of searching to pull together the ideal tenting roster. Senior Josh Young had been in Tent 1 for the past three years, with fellow senior Ameen Ahmad joining him last year. Ahmad and Young, who were roommates as first-years, recruited two other friends from their housing block to join them, but they still needed to find eight more members.
Potential tent members constantly joined and dropped out—seven members cycled through before the final 12 were solidified. One potential tenter realized after spending his first two nights in K-Ville that he had already planned to leave for spring break and wouldn’t be on campus for the game. The final member did not join until black tenting had already begun, three days after the other members of the group had started.
“Nobody wanted to put in the effort,” Young said, referencing one of the many factors that resulted in the initial low interest in this year’s tenting season.
Thanks to a mid-season resurgence in tenting registration, all 130 tenting spots in Krzyzewskiville are now full, according to K-Ville's official website.
Despite the general student body’s lack of interest, competition for the top spot remained fierce among black tents. The order of black tents is determined by points from attendance events, spirit points and scores on a trivia test about Duke basketball history. The top five tents all received the maximum number of attendance points by attending various other Duke sporting events with at least 10 of 12 tent members present.
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Studying for the trivia test was an adventure of its own. Young conservatively estimates that the tent’s shared study guide for the test was 75 pages, with more than five years of accumulated study material passed down from previous tenters.
But the factor that put them solidly in the top spot? The tent’s theme of “Cassius Outside” and its decorations, which helped them dominate the spirit competition to secure Tent 1. The tent’s inspiration was a combination of first-year Cassius Stanley and the popular “Cash Me Outside” meme, and its decorations pay homage to its name with a door and a window drawn on its tarp, Stanley’s face, and even landscaping on the tent’s “‘front porch.’”
The tent also had a robust Instagram presence, with more than 330 followers and regular updates on K-Ville happenings and tent activities.
Becoming Tent 1 didn’t mean the season was smooth sailing. In addition to the missed check during white tenting, the group also missed one during blue tenting. Tents are allowed one missed check per tenting period, with a second missed check resulting in the tent being moved to the back of the line.
“That’s the theme of our tent,” Ahmad said. “We’ve had a lot of close calls, but we always manage to pull through.”
On the last day of blue tenting, no one could fill the time slot from noon to 3 p.m., so the group agreed to use their one allowed miss for the period in the event there was a check called when no members were in K-Ville. No checks were called during the three hours Cassius Outside was empty, but Ahmad, who was scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m., forgot to show up, missing a check that occurred at 3:12 pm.
To prevent a repeat of Ahmad’s mistake, the group decided on an accountability system: 15 minutes before every grace period ended, the tent member arriving in K-Ville would have to text everyone else to confirm they would arrive on time. Wang was so anxious about messing up the schedule that she kept it open on her laptop constantly, checking whenever she opened or closed another window.
“We’re all trying to balance so many different things, but that’s what makes it fun at the same time,” Ahmad said.
He would know, since he spent almost all of black tenting studying to take the MCAT. Between regular schoolwork, reviewing for the test and getting enough sleep, he was left with limited time to spend in K-Ville.
Despite his packed schedule, Ahmad was the tent’s hero on at least one occasion. He woke up one night to Young in his room, telling him to run to K-Ville to cover for a missing tent member. Despite Ahmad’s protests, Young insisted that they needed to go to K-Ville after seeing the line monitors outside Kilgo Quad, preparing to call a check.
“Sprinting to K-Ville at 1 a.m. half-asleep in shorts and a t-shirt, getting the check, and then going back home to bed. That’s one of the close calls I talked about,” Ahmad recounted with a laugh.
From Zion Williamson’s triumphant return to Cameron to the tent’s namesake’s highlight-worthy dunks, this season has been full of highlights for Cassius Outside—but their favorite part of tenting isn’t related to basketball at all.
“Our tent was very mixed in terms of the initial level of interest in basketball, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily about the basketball game itself,” Ahmad said. “I don’t really see the purpose of tenting for multiple months for a two-hour basketball game, but what makes it really cool is our ability to come together.”