Few other college basketball student sections are as iconic as the Cameron Crazies of Duke University.
Since the 1970s, the Duke men’s basketball experience owes much of its excitement and fervor to the heckling and hexing Duke fans located courtside at every Duke men’s basketball game. Just as Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s legacy will undoubtedly spring to mind when considering the greats of collegiate basketball; the Cameron Crazies are synonymous with the nation’s most enthusiastic and dedicated fans.
History of the Cameron Crazies
The history of the Blue Devil student section has evolved alongside the student body. Originally known as the Student Animals, the Cameron Crazies started in the 1960s with an all-male selective living group known as the Bunch of Guys (BOGs).
The BOGs preferred to show up early and sit right behind the opposing team’s bench with the goal of getting into their heads, even before tip-off. During timeouts, they tried to prevent the opposing coach from being able to convey any information to his team, often resulting in coaches moving their teams onto the court to get away from the rowdy crowd on several occasions.
The BOGs specialized in making witty and controversial comments towards opposing players, such as in the infamous case of Maryland star Herman Veal. The Terrapins were in Durham, North Carolina to take on the Blue Devils in regular ACC play in 1984. Veal had just been accused of sexual assault, for which the BOGs and Crazies taunted him, throwing condoms onto the court during his introduction and chanting “R-A-P-E” around the stadium, as well as much more obscene chants. The media tore the student section to shreds, as did Coach K.
In response, the university and student leaders created the Line Monitor organization to hold students in attendance accountable. The message from administrators in athletics and student affairs was clear: The witty taunts could persist, but the obscene language needed to go.
The legendary fervor of these Cameron Crazies set a massive precedent for the Crazies of today and in the future. Part of their success can be attributed to the wit of these young men, but without the unique atmosphere of Cameron Indoor, these taunts may never have caught on.
The role of Cameron Indoor Stadium
Until the mid-to-late 2000s, every seat in the lower bowl of Cameron Indoor Stadium was dedicated to students, save for a couple of rows above the visitor’s bench.
With 3,500 Duke students (one-third of total capacity) attending each game, the raucous and satirical crowds made life a living hell for every visiting team.
As of 2021, Cameron Indoor Stadium seats only 9,314 fans, with 1,200 of those going to undergraduate students and 725 to graduate students. The stadium capacity cannot compare to the neighboring Dean E. Smith Center of bitter rival University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC), seating 21,750 fans. Nonetheless, due to Cameron’s intimate atmosphere and students comprising 20 percent of attendees, the energy at Duke cannot be matched.
This energy is infectious for Duke students and fans alike, so much so that they will go to great lengths to catch a game, especially from the best seats in the house.
Tenting in K-Ville
Legend has it, one night about a week before the home game against UNC, several students in a selective living group called Mirecourt decided they wanted to be the first in line for the game. Over the prior couple of years, some Duke students slept in sleeping bags on the sidewalk outside of Cameron; a tent was not that far of a stretch.
By the time the doors opened for the 1986 men’s basketball face-off between UNC and Duke, 75 tents had popped up in the area outside of Cameron Indoor. Duke later named the area Krzyzewskiville after their beloved coach.
Tenting season and K-Ville have become synonymous with being a Cameron Crazie. Every year, students sleep in tents for up to 12 weeks to earn a spot at the Duke-UNC game, with the Line Monitors presiding over the arduous process. The competition to obtain one of 1,200 sought-after seats has evolved, now including tent checks to verify attendance, trivia to decide tent order, and required attendance at other major athletic events, as well as ESPN Gameday.
While tenting has changed much over the years, the desire to fill the stands and scream out chants remains the same.
What do the Cameron Crazies chant?
The Duke Cameron Crazies have so many chants that they hand out cheat sheets before big games.
The most common chants are the most positive: “Let’s Go, Duke!”; “Go, Devils, Go!”; “Here We Go, Devils, Here We Go!”; and “Let’s Go, Devils!”
Most other chants are situational, such as when an opposing fan heckles during a Duke free-throw attempt; if the player makes the shot, the Crazies yell, “Sit!” repeatedly at the person heckling. When an opposing player picks up their fourth foul, the fans wave four fingers singing, “Four” repeatedly. If they pick up their fifth, the whole crowd hexes that player (waves a hand in their direction while yelling “Ooooh!”) until the player sits down on the bench, when they scream, “See ya!” a single time while waving.
Some other chants include, “You let the whole team down” when a player makes an unforced error, or “You can’t do that” or “No!” when an opposing player fouls poorly.
Other chants are variations of other student sections’ chants.
For instance, instead of just saying that a player “sucks” during introductions, Crazies say, “Hi, ___” with others chirping in after, “You suck!” At the end of home wins, the crowd chants, “Our house!” and sings the alma mater with the team.
The Crazies used to be known for their sly and intense heckling, but in the years since the BOGs, the Crazies are known for other traditions beyond their witty chants.
Modern Cameron Crazies traditions
Other non-chant traditions within Duke basketball games remain quintessential to the Duke basketball experience.
The first tradition is hexing an opposing player.
If a player inbounds a ball next to the student section, it is a guarantee that the Crazies’ hands will be inches away from the player’s body, shaking while they scream one long, “Ooooh!” Once the player inbounds the ball, the Crazies put their hands down, start jumping and continue yelling until the Blue Devils regain possession.
The second revolves around the 2005 hit song, “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada.
Every time the song plays, normally during a timeout late in the second half, the student section slowly claps overhead and screams out the lyrics. When the chorus starts, every student starts jumping, alternating pumping fists into the air.
During this song, the energy in the building morphs drastically. Notably, the band and marketing teams play this song when the team needs a change in momentum. The ability for one song to electrify a crowd which then changes the tides of the game perfectly illustrates the power of the Cameron Crazies. They are the ultimate sixth man in games.
Other traditions include the “crazy towel guy”, a season ticket holder who waves a white towel he brings to each game during a timeout late in the game, and the “lights” guy, who flashes small flashlights he brings to each game and dances during “Everytime We Touch”. The Blue Devil mascot also surfs on a surfboard on top of rotating band members during an early timeout.
And at the beginning of each game, Duke plays a pump-up video that reviews the previous national championships, and the Crazies count along. The end of the video brags about the winningest coach of all time, Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Then, Coach K walks out to “All I Do Is Win”, and the student fans bow repeatedly. Sadly, it will end with his retirement in 2022.
While the Cameron Crazies have evolved much since their inception in the 1970s, their importance has not withered — if anything, it has grown. The scores of attending students ebb and flow over the years with differing priorities, interests, and availability, but the Cameron Crazies will always remain the same — hexing and heckling their way into history as one of the greatest student sections of all time.