When you think of great tailgating environments  and football powerhouses, Duke University in Durham, NC, is far from that list. The last 20 seasons have been tough on Blue Devil fans. Their last bowl game was at the end of the 1994 season, from 1999-2007 their record was 13-90 including a 22 game losing streak from 2005-2007. Well ignore the past, after a weekend trip to Durham I have seen that things are changing for the Blue Devils.

Tailgating at Duke happens all over campus. There are several pass holder lots around the stadium that have a pretty good crowd. I wasn’t there for as long as I usually am, but every lot I ventured into had great food and fans present. When visiting Duke for the first time, you have to take a stroll around their beautiful campus.

The Gothic style is carried through almost every building on campus. This cohesive look makes it one the prettiest campuses that I have been to.

Like most schools, Duke has a player walk where fans can hi five and cheer on the team as they make their way to the stadium. The Devil Walk happens a little more than 2 hours prior to kickoff along Blue Devil Alley, between Cameron Indoor Stadium and Wallace Wade Stadium.

When you see fans lining up on either side of a cement walkway, you know that you are in the right place. Like most walks, the band leads the way.

Followed by the mascot and then the players.

Once the players have made their way through, fans will begin making their way towards the stadium.

My trip to Durham was not one of my usual tailgating travels. I was actually going to this game. My grandmother is a season ticket holder and was going to be out of town. When she asked if I wanted her tickets, I jumped at the chance. There is no way I could miss them playing UNC.

The DUKE Vs UNC basketball rivalry is known throughout the country as being one of the best and most heated rivalries in all of sports. The schools are only 8 miles apart and year after year each fields a team that will challenge for a national title on the court. With football, things are a little bit different. The Duke vs UNC football rivalry is something that only Duke and UNC fans are passionate about. I am a huge Duke fan. Other than The University of Wisconsin ( Class of 2008), Duke is the only school that I would consider myself a “fan” of.  I use the term “fan” to imply that I have an uncontrolled bias and unexplainable loyalty to this school that their wins and losses effect me in daily life. My love for Duke is something that truly was unavoidable. My mom went there, my Aunt went there, both of my grandparents went there.  My late grandfather, Carl C. James, played football and was on the track team there. After college he was football recruiter at Duke before ultimately serving as Athletic Director. Unfortunately the decision of which side to pick wasn’t so clear. My Dad is a UNC Alum and my parents both met at UNC Law School. With my grandparents influence, I chose the Blue Devil side. Growing up in a house divided is something that is common for many sports fans.

For this game I wasn’t just in a house divided. It was a car divided.

My fiancée is a UNC Alum and a very passionate Tarheel fan. With Duke and UNC being so close to each other, a house divided was a problem that many fans faced.

In this game, the players play for more than just pride. The Victory Bell is on the line with the winner retaining rights to it until the next year’s contest. I mentioned that Duke’s program is on the upswing. In this 2012 meeting both teams entered the game at 5-2 and ESPNU picked up the game as its Saturday night game. If Duke won, it would become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Either way, there was going to be one member of my car that wouldn’t be happy on the ride back to Charlotte.

Wallace Wade Stadium was packed for this game. The final score. Duke 33 UNC 30.Here is a video of the last play and Duke storming the field to take back the Victory Bell.

Their record on the field in past years may not reflect it, but there are plenty of passionate fans in Durham. It may be one of the smaller stadiums in the ACC, but funds for stadium expansion are being raised and the play on the field is headed in the right direction. All of this will lead to a game day environment that will only get better.  I had a blast in Durham and can’t wait to visit again.

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