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'Amazing every single time': UNC fans rush Franklin Street after rivalry win

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UNC students celebrate on Franklin Street after the men's basketball team win against Duke on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. UNC beat Duke 93-84.

As the UNC men's basketball team claimed a 93-84 victory against its rival Duke in the Dean E. Smith Center, UNC fans from across campus and Chapel Hill began rushing toward the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets. 

Resounding chants of "Tar! Heels!" echoed through the crowd of an estimated 20,000. Participants climbed stoplight poles, slid down telephone wires and waved everything from flags to lightsabers on top of friends' shoulders while they cheered. 

Emily Barksdale, a senior at UNC, said she watched the game at Sup Dogs — a restaurant with easy access to Franklin Street. Watching the game was exhilarating, Barksdale said. While she was not fully sure if UNC would win, she said it wasn't as scary as previous UNC-Duke games she’s watched.

After the Tar Heel victory, Barksdale said she sprinted to the street with her friend, who happened to be celebrating her birthday.

“There's something about your best friend you've known since you were a little bitty and then spending senior year together rushing Franklin,” she said. “I'm a little sentimental, I'm not going to lie.”

Alex Carrasquillo, community safety public information officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the Chapel Hill Police Department began closing downtown roads at about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Though it was a little bit ahead of the end of the actual game, he said officials recognized that people were already heading into the intersection. 

Law enforcement opened the roads to traffic at about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night, he said.

The Town of Chapel Hill reported that an estimated 15,000 students and community members rushed in 2022 when UNC defeated Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the year UNC also beat Duke in the NCAA Final Four. 

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UNC students celebrate on Franklin St after UNC defeated Duke 93-84 on Feb. 3, 2024.

"It's amazing every single time," UNC junior Celia Gibbs said.

Gibbs stood in the bustling crowd alongside sophomore Cate Meardon, both wrapped in a UNC flag. The pair said they ran from the Union Chapel Hill apartment complex, located about half a mile from Franklin Street, a feat that left them out of breath.

While it was Gibbs' third time rushing Franklin Street after a UNC win, Meardon experienced the tradition for the first time. 

"I did not expect people actually on poles, like I thought it was a myth," she said

Carrasquillo said there was one reported injury along with two arrests on Saturday night. The injured individual tripped and was transported to UNC Hospitals, he said.

A motorcyclist who police believe was attempting to join the crowd was arrested for careless and reckless driving, driving on a closed street and driving with a revoked license. The other individual was arrested for assault. 

Police confiscated a number of items, including mattresses, that were intended to be burned, an infamous Franklin Street tradition.

Hunter Teague, a UNC junior who had a Phase 2 ticket to the game, said he sprinted to Franklin Street from the Smith Center with his friends. Though he rushed when he was a first-year, he said the energy from running from the basketball game itself this year made it his favorite experience.

“It was just surreal, the amount of people here was just insane," he said. "Just getting shoved around, just in a mosh pit. It was so much fun.”

Outside of Raising Canes standing with his friends, Drew Babatunde, a student at N.C. A&T, cheered along with the crowd.

He said he also watched the game at Sup Dogs and ran outside to join the surge of people on their way toward the intersection. When describing the experience, he said he had to use one word: electric.

"It’s fun and if you want to have a good time, you got to come out to Franklin after a W," he said. "Let’s go Tar Heels!”

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Emmy Martin contributed reporting to this story. 

@l_rhodsie 

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com


Lauren Rhodes

Lauren Rhodes is the 2024 university editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant editor and senior writer for the university desk. Lauren is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and political science with a minor in politics, philosophy and economics.