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The 120 Years War
Courtesy: Duke Office of News & Communications
Release: 11/28/2008
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The mascots square off at the 1957 game.
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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DURHAM, N.C. -- The Duke-UNC football rivalry can’t be said to currently be as intense as in basketball, but it’s older, and its moments of strange but true stories stands up to any rivalry.

The series dates back to Thanksgiving Day 1888 when Trinity College President John Crowell, believing that athletics were a way to build spirit and raise the stature of the Randolph County campus, assembled a football team and challenged the University of North Carolina.  Crowell himself coached the team, called “The Crowells,” an unusual case of a college president doubling as football coach. 

According to former University Archivist William King, who wrote about the rivalry for the 1979 game program, that first game ended with a 16-0 Trinity win, aided by “The Crowells” superior knowledge of the new game’s rules.  Stonewall Durham scores the first touchdown in the series.

“That evening the victors were treated to a theater party where President Crowell was publicly congratulated at intermission by the Raleigh editor and influential UNC alumnus Josephus Daniels,” King wrote.  “Crowell later wrote, ‘That long-talked-of victory added not only to the athletic reputation of Trinity ... but it gave the College an indefinable prestige of a general but most effective kind.  Nobody realized more clearly that University men generally that here (at Trinity) was a college with a policy to be reckoned with.’”

Over the next 120 years, the Duke-UNC football game was often one of the highlights of the season. In 1935, a Duke victory derailed UNC’s hopes for a Rose Bowl invitation; Duke fan Red Underwood wrote a poem “The Ballad of a Bust” set to the UNC fight song “Hark the Sound.”

A few years later, in 1941, Duke’s shutout of UNC sent the Blue Devils to the Rose Bowl, which to date is the only Rose Bowl played out of Pasadena.  (See highlights of the 1941 game below).

In 1948, two cheerleaders, Loring Jones of Duke and Norman Spear of North Carolina, led an effort to create a Victory Bell, meant to be a prize for the victor.  The legend is Spear found the bell from an old railroad train.

The series has its history of spectacular plays, from Leo Hart’s shoelace play in 1969 to Doug Green’s 1985 heroics in which he caught two touchdown passes in the last two minutes to lead Duke to a 23-21 victory.

Getting to the Game

Game time is 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium, but there will be plenty of pre-game activities. For a full list of events and tips on parking, click here.

A Look Back at Duke-UNC

You can learn a lot about the changing game of football by looking at game programs. Duke University Archives has posted many of the game program covers online.  To see the full collection, click here.  To see all Duke-UNC programs, click here.