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A look at the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry through the eyes of other Tar Heel athletes

UNC Gymnastics Head Coach Derek Galvin speaks with the team after a meet against University of Pittsburgh on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Carmichael Arena.

The Battle of the Blues — a tale as old as time. 

Like any story, it’s filled with suspense and plenty of action. It leaves the audience with clasped hands, staring at the computer screen or TV in front of them. Or maybe, they were one of the lucky ones to snag a seat to watch the oldest rivalry in college athletics live. 

It all boils down to who is the better blue — North Carolina or Duke? 

The two schools are located just eight miles apart, and they have been battling in basketball since 1920, when UNC won the first game between the two powerhouses, 36-25

It's since become one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. But what do athletes from other UNC sports think of it? We talked to Tar Heels on four different teams to find out.


  • Before Derek Galvin started coaching at UNC in 1981, he was first a UNC student, competing for the men’s gymnastics team until it was discontinued in 1974. 

"The proximity of Durham and Chapel Hill and the fact both schools excel in basketball, it’s created a fantastic rivalry," Galvin said. "It makes the experience for the students, the faculty and the staff on both campuses more fun. We’re talking about bragging rights for several months. It’s a healthy diversion from the intensity of being a student and the pressures of the world that weigh upon all of us.”

  • Khazia Hislop, a senior from Concord, Massachusetts, knew close to nothing about the basketball rivalry before coming to UNC. After experiencing it for four years, though, Hislop said the feeling she gets rushing Franklin Street is her favorite part. 

“It’s just excitement," she said. "You can’t even feel your body, really … It was so much adrenaline. There are always people around you running, too. Everyone just has the same thing in mind. It’s one of the best parts about it.”

Men’s lacrosse

  • Some UNC lacrosse players were born and bred Tar Heel fans thanks to their parents attending the university. 

Senior Patrick Lyons' sister and dad both went to UNC, too. His favorite UNC-Duke memory dates back to 2007. 

“It’s got to be Tyler Hansbrough, when he gets hit, has a broken nose and comes back with a mask on,” Lyons said. “It signifies the level of toughness UNC sports overall tries to play with, and he embodies that completely.”

  • Alex Helms, a junior from Matthews, North Carolina, said between the two schools there is "a lot of respect, but a lot of dislike as well." Out of all the years of watching the team, his favorite was when North Carolina beat Duke at home last year. 

“It was cool to see the way our team reacted,” Helms said. “We weren’t supposed to beat them, and we did.” 

Men’s tennis

The impact of the Tobacco Road rivalry can even stretch across countries. 

  • When Denmark native Simon Soendergaard first got to Chapel Hill, he got swept into it, too.  

“Coming from Europe, you don’t really know too much about the Duke-Carolina rivalry," he said. "But as you come in and you learn more about that process, you start to develop some sense of a relationship. I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets to some of the games myself and felt that atmosphere in the Dean Dome. It’s hard to describe.” 

  • For Benjamin Sigouin, a Vancouver, Canada native, the feeling while watching the game is "electric."

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“Ever since I’ve been here, the day they play each other, it’s a huge day," he said. "It’s almost like a holiday. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best team in the country. Every game is a close battle between the two. I haven’t been to a game yet, but seeing them last year when Duke was so hyped about Zion (Williamson), and we beat them twice, it was pretty special.” 

Men’s soccer

  • Lastly, there are those that come in to UNC as transfer students and have to rapidly get acquainted with the intense rivalry. 

The first thing that UNC junior Matt Constant, who transferred from the University of New Mexico, heard about when he stepped onto campus was the Duke rivalry. He quickly learned its importance, especially within the basketball world. 

“If you’re going to win any game, that’s the one to win," the Dallas, Texas, native said. "It means a lot, in the sense that there’s more on the line in those games. It shouldn’t matter who you play, but with Duke, there’s something personal.” 


@DTHSports |

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