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Shunning the "wine and cheese" rep
By Will Weiss
ABC Sports Online

Depending on your position along Tobacco Road, the signs say "Go to Hell, Carolina" and "Dook sucks". Ah yes, nothing captures the essence of a bitter rivalry like creative references to eternal doom and poop.

UNC fans
North Carolina fans maintain the classy reputation of the program.

That's outside, though. Inside the arenas, you know what to expect from the Cameron Crazies, but at the Dean Dome, you won't find UNC fans shouting obscenities, criticizing officials, taunting opposing players or ragging opposing coaches for a wicked comb-over or a sweating problem as you might with their counterparts eight miles away.

"When Kentucky came, we called Saul Smith 'Daddy's Boy', but that's probably as offensive as we'll get," says Rob Leichner, a UNC sophomore from New Jersey.

Under Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge, North Carolina gained national attention through winning, projecting the program's image as being classy and upstanding. The fans adopted that persona as well, and have been called snobby and pretentious as a result.

"We have a reputation of being pretty much a wine and cheese crowd," says Jason Waller, a sophomore from Beulaville, N.C. "Sometimes I think that's a bit unfair, though."

Don't expect wine and cheese on Sunday afternoon, when Duke-Carolina Part II goes down in Chapel Hill (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). UNC faithful have waited all year for their chance to win the off-court portion of the rivalry.

Carolina fans don't camp out like Dukies do in Krzyzewskiville or like Virginia fans have in front of University Hall. Many Tar Heel fans will camp out overnight before bracelets are distributed at 6 a.m. of game days. For the Duke game, seniors and members of Carolina Fever, a student organization that rewards its members for supporting Olympic sports with tickets to men's basketball games, have priority to the best seats in the house.

While the ticketing system is fairly tight, Matt Doherty, the Tar Heels' exuberant head coach, has helped loosen the mood in the Dean Dome, similar to what he did during his one-year head coaching stint at Notre Dame. His outward displays of emotion have spilled into the seats, creating a new persona for both the team and the fans.

"He's made a tremendous difference, he's brought a lot of excitement in," Waller says. "He'll come in and point to the students and bow down to them. He interacts with the audience -- that's the biggest change. He acts like we do make a difference."

Matt Doherty
Volatile head coach Matt Doherty brings a different vibe to the Dean Dome.

Recently, while UNC students lined up to get tickets for Sunday's clash, Doherty charged through the line high-fiving students, thanking them for their support. Doherty has also been known to toss T-shirts into the stands and engage in riling up the crowd, and in turn, making Fever's job that much easier.

Fever has almost become UNC's answer to the Crazies. Of the 5,500 or so students in attendance per game, the organization receives only 170 tickets spread through two sections -- 140 sit in Section 100 -- and 30 Fever members mix with the 400 students on the risers, located underneath the basket closest to the Carolina bench. The riser people are decked out in full body and face paint, pom-pom suits and other regalia.

"There are many who think it's unfair that we're in the lower level every game," says senior Anna Kroncke, Fever's chair. "If they want to join the club, they could. Down on the risers and in the lower level, people look to us to lead the cheers."

"It may not look like we're that loud on TV, but it can get really loud in there," Leichner says.

Volume inside the Dean Dome is a definite on Sunday. While they may not be as biting as the Cameron Crazies, count on UNC fans to be just as loud, supportive and vicious, even if they don't publicly razz Shane Battier's hairline.

More students have banded together as the team has won and Doherty's popularity has skyrocketed. A group has formed called "Doherty's Disciples", which is gaining members at an exponential rate.

As "Doherty's Disciples" become a force at the Dean Dome along with the folks in Carolina Fever, perhaps in time the UNC fans will gain the notoriety of their Tobacco Road counterparts.

Will Weiss is an assistant editor at ABC Sports Online.  HELP |  ADVERTISER INFO |  CONTACT US |  TOOLS |  SITE MAP
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