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.”