Students weren't expecting the North Carolina men’s basketball team to win Saturday night, let alone that they would rush Franklin Street afterward. But, as UNC's lead grew late in the game, people started leaving their TVs and lacing their shoes in anticipation of the tradition.
And they did just that following UNC's win against Duke Saturday. Students ran to the corner of Franklin and Columbia streets to celebrate — chanting, setting fires and climbing street light poles.
According to preliminary estimates, as many as 15,000 people were on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill Community Safety Public Information Officer Alex Carrasquillo said.
UNC sophomore Eliam Mussie, who led chants in the center of the Franklin Street crowd, said the intersection changed quickly from its normal flow of traffic to thousands of celebrating students.
“In 30 seconds, it changed from nobody there, regular cars, and then traffic cleared," he said. "I was in the middle, and all I saw was just swarms of people coming. It was amazing.”
Chapel Hill police started closing the roads at 8:25 p.m. as the game ended. Carrasquillo said police and Town staff were already prepared to close the road for the win, as is standard practice.
The roads reopened about an hour later, Carrasquillo said.
Christopher Law, a UNC student who was holding a street sign from Duke’s campus in the crowd, said participating in the celebration was something he had dreamed about since his childhood.
“Taking part in the UNC traditions is the best thing I think I could do here,” Law said. “My favorite part of the night was singing the alma mater with my friends and the people around us, holding the sign and enjoying the Carolina spirit.”
For senior Jillian Heard, rushing Franklin Street was a full-circle moment. It was her first time rushing since coming to UNC.
“Knowing it’s my last time to do it as a student, which makes it really special, and that it was such an exciting night to take down Coach K in his last game at home, and know that if I’m ever back on Franklin, it will be in a different way,” she said.
UNC sophomore Divya Patel said she had never experienced energy like she saw on Franklin Street Saturday night.
“Especially for sophomores, who, for a lot of people their first year was online, in their second year, they actually got to do this,” Patel said. “It was really great to see the community come together with all this energy.”
In February 2021, celebrations on Franklin Street following UNC’s win against Duke were cut short by police due to COVID-19 protocols, and more than 300 students who participated were referred to the Office of Student Conduct.
In March 2021, after another UNC win over Duke, fewer students gathered, and the intersection only closed for five minutes.
UNC sophomore Blaise Shiver said this year was his first experience rushing Franklin Street — despite two UNC wins over Duke last year — due to the pandemic.
“This is my first experience doing it because of last year, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I have to rush Franklin,'” Shiver said.
Sophomore Lexi Freas was watching the game with friends at an off-campus apartment. She said she and her friends ran to the intersection and tried to get as close to the center of the crowd as possible.
“It felt like a mosh pit in there,” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of concerts that were nowhere near as intense as that."
Being involved in UNC traditions, Freas said, is one of the most important things about her college experience.
"This is what being a student at Chapel Hill is all about,” she said.
The first recorded rush of Franklin Street was in 1957, following UNC’s national championship game win against Kansas — and students have been doing so for the past four decades when the Tar Heels win national championships or defeat Duke.
Mussie said long-standing traditions like rushing Franklin Street are part of what defines the University.
“UNC is UNC because of the traditions and the people,” he said. “And that right there, you brought both tradition and people together for an amazing time, and a huge upset game. It doesn’t get more Carolina than that.”
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