As soon as the PA system clicked on around 5:40 p.m., booing echoed throughout Koury Natatorium.
“I knew it was over,” said junior Andrew Wood.
And so did more than 500 other students that had been moved inside at 1 p.m. by the Athletic Department after snow made waiting in line outside unbearable. The same students who were reassured multiple times throughout the day — even through an Alert Carolina text message — that the Duke game was still on.
The announcer paused to let the shouting subside.
He told Phase 1 ticket holders who had been waiting for up to seven hours — many of them abandoning their cars and walking miles to get to the Smith Center — that the Duke basketball team would not be making the 10-mile trek to Chapel Hill due to dangerous road conditions.
“Everyone knew,” said Wood, who turned 21 Wednesday and hoped to include the Duke game in his birthday celebrations. “It could have been the best.”
According to an Athletic Department press release, the 9 p.m. game was postponed due to inclement weather and will be rescheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20.
“Duke’s bus is not able to get to their campus to pick up the team in time to be able to make the trip to Chapel Hill so we can’t play this evening,” said UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham in a statement.
“The safety of the teams and officials is the number one priority and this was the best decision to make at this time.”
Senior Chase Edwards walked two miles from Chapel Ridge apartments, spent hours waiting, dished out $40 on paint and took about an hour and a half to turn his entire body blue for the game. He said the change in plans made him miserable.
“You see a week in advance it’s going to be snowy, it’s going to be bad conditions, why can’t they come to the Carolina Inn, sleep here?” Edwards said.
“Why can’t they get here 3 o’clock or 2 o’clock … you want to raise the question, ‘Did they want to play us tonight with a Dean Dome packed full of students?’”
Many season ticket holders were unable to travel to the game, and students would have been able to fill the empty seats in the lower level of the Smith Center, prompting many who previously planned to watch on TV to rush out in the icy conditions to make it to the stand-by line.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige, as well as some of his teammates, tweeted their thoughts about that potential atmosphere.
“I’m just still thinking about the whole lower half being filled with students,” Paige tweeted Wednesday night.
“Woulda been the coolest thing ever.”
One person who was particularly invested in attendees’ efforts was coach Roy Williams, who visited the Smith Center line in his Carolina blue basketball shorts to thank the students braving the conditions.
Hours after that and just a few minutes after postponement was announced, Williams once again came to thank them and apologize for the cancellation.
“We will play Duke in the Smith Center before this season is over,” Williams told students. “But it won’t be tonight and it won’t be tomorrow night.”
The Athletic Department collected tickets and wristbands so that the line would be in the same order Feb. 20 that it was Wednesday.
“I am glad they are honoring what students did,” said senior Jamal Benjamin. “Because it was snowing, it was freezing cold, my toes had frost bite. I’m glad they’re honoring our position in line.”
Students said Williams’ appearance helped calm down many of those vocalizing their frustration.
Just 20 minutes after hearing the game would be postponed, the 500 students outdid their own booing by singing UNC’s alma mater even louder.
Ending with a booming “Go to hell, Duke.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.