The History of Krzyzewskiville

It's been described as a unique phenomenon unlike any other: undergraduate students at Duke University camp out for months on end to gain access to one of the most exclusive and exciting sporting events on the planet - the annual basketball game between Duke and their cross-town rival, the University of North Carolina. Compiled from a variety of sources - some firsthand - we hope this quick glance at the history of one of Duke's most unique phenomena serves as a nostalgic reminder of Duke for alumni and a record of tradition for current students.

Which Came First: Student or Crazie?

The Student Animals and Bunch of Guys

To properly tell the story of Krzyzewskiville, one must first understand the advent of rabid fanaticism at Duke basketball games. Students in Cameron have always been known for Crazieness, but one group in particular turned things up a notch.

We're just following tradition, say the Animals. That they are. A few years ago, whenever he saw time in Cameron, corpulent Virginia forward Dan Merrifield was greeted with cries of "Orca!" In 1979, Tar Heel forward Mike O'Koren's acne earned him a banner proclaiming him OXY-1000 POSTER CHILD, on the off chance he wasn't already sufficiently self-conscious. Jim (Bozo) O'Brien, a Maryland forward in the early '70s, was easy to spot because of his thinning, curly red hair. During warmups at Duke one winter's night, a Student Animal sporting a red rubber nose, floppy shoes and a red Bozo the Clown wig joined the layup line behind O'Brien. Dueling Bozos. The crowd went wild.

It started as early as the 1960s, when the university approved campus status for a selective living group known as the Bunch of Guys. The now-infamous organization was the only all-male SLG at the time and was intended to function as an alternative to the Greek life present on campus. Free from the restrictions surrounding traditional fraternity recruitment, the Bunch of Guys attracted a subset of the student population that quickly became notorious for its sharp wit, its disregard for authority, and its love of Duke basketball.

“[The Bunch of Guys] were the entertainers of the entertainment,” Krzyzewski wrote in an email. “They were in the middle of everything. I know they created a lot of angst and were a cause of concern at times, but overall, they were great.”

Over the years, as the student section at Duke evolved from the Student Animals into the Cameron Crazies of today, the Boggers marched in the vanguard, constantly toeing the line between barely acceptable and downright crude. After a particularly controversial event involving Maryland player Herman Veal in 1984, Duke president Terry Sanford - affectionately known as "Uncle Terry" by students - wrote the now-famous Avuncular Letter that asked students to clean up their act. Wit and sarcasm prevailed, and at the following contest against Carolina, students donned tin foil halos and brandished signs reading "WELCOME, FELLOW SCHOLARS" and "A HEARTY WELCOME TO DEAN SMITH."

After their on-campus behavior took a turn for the worse in the late eighties, the Bunch of Guys was eventually disbanded in 1992, leaving behind a legacy of wit and dedication alongside crude and questionable-at-best behavior. Many students would soon follow in their footsteps at basketball games, though the level of cruditas has never returned to its former peak.

1986: Humble Beginnings

One Dukie's quest to be first spawned a tradition

During the Bunch of Guys' heyday, sleeping out for games was not unheard of. Most sleep-outs lasted for a night or two before the game. The Chronicle notes that three students slept on the sidewalk for entry into the 1984 Carolina game, with a few more sleeping out the following year.

Tradition traces the origins of the Krzyzewskiville phenomenon to a cold 1986 evening and a game of quarters.

Kimberly Reed, a student in the Mirecourt selective living group on campus, rallied a group of sixteen tipsy students to pitch a tent a week before game day in order to be first in line for the impending clash between Duke and UNC. While Reed and her cohorts were not the first to camp out before a game, they were most certainly first in line for that famous 1986 game - the catalyst that begat the first Krzyzewskiville.

"It was common for people to line up hours before a game," said Kimberly Reed, Trinity '86, who was one of the first tenters. "We were playing quarters one night at Mirecourt and joking about how early we were going to line up for the '86 [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] game. Finally, someone said, 'Why don't we just pitch a tent?' After a few rounds of quarters, it began to sound like a good idea."

Enter the Line Monitors

It catches on

By the time doors had opened for the 1986 Duke/UNC game, around 75 tents had been constructed on the grassy lawn in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Concerns for student safety and integrity of the ticketing process arose after the line violently compacted before tip-off, resulting in multiple injuries and accusations of line-cutting.

The Associated Students of Duke University (ASDU) - the predecessor of the Duke Student Government we know and love today - instituted student line monitoring for the 1984 season in response to the antics of the Bunch of Guys. Their job? Simple: if a line formed before a game, keep it under control within reason. As a part of ASDU's Building, Grounds, and Athletic Affairs Committee, the chairman of the committee ran the show.

After the issues surrounding the 1986 tilt against Carolina, however, line monitoring responsibility was formally separated from the student government, though the Line Monitors retain close ties to DSG today.

Krzyzewskiville has grown thanks to both outside influence and student culture. The position of Head Line Monitor was created in 1989, and each successive group of Line Monitors has tweaked and revised the tenting policy to close loopholes and better suit the campus climate.

Krzyzewskiville is, as Coach K would put it, alive. It has endured and adapted for nearly thirty years.

The Cameron Crazies' Greatest Hits

Building the reputation

While K-Ville has grown and changed, the atmosphere inside Cameron still hearkens back to an era gone by. Student seating is so close to the floor that conversations with players are mere happenstance. Crazies know game officials by name, and vice versa.

In close games against North Carolina and other top ten opponents, decibel levels inside Cameron have approached 130 dB - approximate to standing next to an aircraft taking off on a runway. The bleachers rattle, the floor shakes, and the rafters and foundations quake with increasing fervor each time a three-pointer is made or dunk slammed.

Aside from pure volume, the Crazies have made a name for themselves as one of the wittiest fan bases in the country, inventing many chants and practice that have become commonplace at collegiate sporting events. One such example occurred during a 1979 contest against the Tar Heels. UNC, notorious at the time for running a stall offense, took only one shot in the entire first half - which failed to draw iron. Rich Yonakor, the poor Tar Heel who took the shot, was serenaded with the now-ubiquitous "Air Ball!" chant for the first time.

Krzyzewskiville Today

Still Crazie after all these years

Today, Krzyzewskiville has grown to be an integral part of the Duke experience, bringing together students from all walks of life in a unique way that no other on-campus organization can duplicate.

Krzyzewskiville's population each year stands at 1200 even: one hundred tents. A waiting list is usually formed for tents who were not able to register in time. The most hard-core fans start tenting during the Black Tenting period, which begins the day before the second semester commences. The 2012 season saw a record-setting forty-six Black tents pitch on the first day of the tenting season after criticisms of declining attendance.

Students come and go. Players come and go. One day, we will even have to bid a solemn farewell to Mike Krzyzewski himself. What makes Krzyzewskiville so special is its power as a unifying force, acting on both students and alumni as part of a tradition that stretches back for decades.