Banner Rivalry

Writer: 
June 1, 2006
Commencement buzz: banner rivalry at 1979 graduation

Commencement buzz: banner rivalry at 1979 graduation
Duke University Archives

Basketball season may be over, but our rivalry with that school with a lighter shade of blue never seems to stop. Trash talking between schools started long before athletic contests added heat to the competition. In 1853 Trinity College president Braxton Craven accused UNC president David Swain of making disparaging remarks about Trinity students and instructed him to "speak of us respectfully." The "disrespect" for Duke students continued a century later when, in 1954, Daily Tar Heel editor Charles Kuralt (later of CBS fame) suggested that the Durham-Chapel Hill highway be blocked off to keep the Dukies out of Chapel Hill.

Vandalism has been another recurring theme in the rivalry. By 1948 the problem had escalated to the point that the Duke and UNC student governments created the victory-bell tradition in order to foster friendlier relations. But the problem persisted and, in 1954, after UNC students painted graffiti on the Duke campus, the two universities agreed to expel any vandals found on either campus.

The UNC ram mascot has been a favorite target of Duke students. In 1977 Ramses was kidnapped. The student perpetrators left a note reading, "Please understand that this action was consummated in the healthy atmosphere of intercollegiate competition and rivalry and was undertaken with the principles of sportsmanship in mind."

One persistent outgrowth of the rivalry is the phrase "Go to Hell, Carolina," which seems ingrained in the Duke psyche. It has been expressed in some improbable venues, including then-president Nannerl O. Keohane's 1999 and 2002 Convocation addresses. Commencement is another place that this phrase often appears, usually on the tops of mortar boards. In 1979, to the amusement of those on stage and the delight of the students, a plane flew over Wallace Wade during the ceremony trailing a banner with the phrase.

— Pyatt '81 is a University Archivist.