Arena Evaluation: UNC
SIOC heads south to check out The Dean Smith Center
Posted: Monday February 5, 2007 11:58AM; Updated: Monday February 5, 2007 11:58AM
North Carolina has one of the largest alumni endowments of any university in the nation. Its booster foundation, literally, paid for the Dean Dome to be built. They run the show. And on game days, it's evident. Behind one of the baskets are the measly four rows of risers dedicated to hardcore student-fans, which are so far away from the players that binoculars are almost in order. The alumni (aka Rams Club members, who are 50+-year-olds with ample amounts of money, no desire to leave their college days behind and little interest in current students' wishes to attend games), claim 90 percent of the rest of the 22,000 seats.
So when the Tar Heels routed Miami 105-64 on Jan. 31, it was expected that the crowd would be a mix -- a skewed mix -- of UNC fans. Some preferred wine, others preferred the comfort of soda or Gatorade. Some liked to roll up in Mercedes' and Lexus', others preferred the bus. Some enjoyed the pleasure of kicking others out of their seats that they paid half-a-million dollars for, and others were delighted at the chance to finally get a ticket even if it was under the scoreboard-overhang with the worst view in the arena.
But despite the differences, Heels' fans all have an infatuation with Carolina blue. They love their school and they love their team -- even 50, 60, 70 years later.
Everybody and everything is Carolina Blue. The only ones not wearing the school's colors are fans of the opposing team, and they stick out like sore thumbs. But honestly, fans at the women's basketball games are more "spirited." A trio paints their stomachs blue and white to read U-N-C while other wear obnoxious blue wigs and crazy hats. At the men's games, though, you'll see the rows of Carolina t-shirts and a couple painted faces (in the student riser section), but other than that, fans are pretty conservative. Kinda disappointing.
Against Miami, the crowd erupted when one of three things happened: (A) a UNC player dunked, (B) a UNC player hit a 3-pointer or (C) when Dewey Burke (the 12th man) came in with less than two minutes remaining and drained a 3-point basket to put the Tar Heels past the century-mark. Whenever UNC scores 100 or more points, anyone with a ticket gets two Bojangles biscuits for only $1. Burke, who also drained a 3-pointer to put Carolina over the edge against Penn on Jan. 3, now responds to the name "Biscuits."
Visability? Not so great. Up-to-date? Not really. Sound? Ehhh. Overall atmosphere? Awesome. Why the Tar Heel experience is so incredible when the venue hardly lives up to its hype, especially since the Dukies have an arena that is perfect for the students, may not make sense, but once you're there, you realize why the Dean Dome is worth the neck-craning and ear-straining. Thirty-eight replica jerseys hang from the rafters, each representing a piece of the long history of the school's program. On the lower level of the arena, right near the entrance, sits Dean Smith's office. The legendary coach still comes in to "work" still remains a part of the basketball team. When you walk into the Dean Dome, you can't ignore the aura of the program's history.
Lame. Very lame. At the Miami game, there was not a single sign held by angry students. Not even a "Hi, Mom. I'm on TV" or a cliché ESPN acronym. Nothing. There were no hardly any chants (other than the late-game craving for "Biscuits!"), no insults and no taunting. Occasionally, fans will wear some pretty clever shirts, like the "Top 10 Reasons" shirts for attending Duke or N.C. State. Among the reasons include The Gargoyles on the buildings remind me of Mom and Low student to animal ratio.
But in the Miami game, no such shirt were worn. Even coach Frank Haith got ejected and all that the UNC fans could come up with was "Booooo!" and some snickering laughs. How original.
They are devoted -- usually. Rarely does a day go by without a letter to the editor of UNC's student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, from a student angered by the lack of tickets distributed to students. But even with the constant complaining, there are a number of games where the seats are not packed. Students receive tickets and often times don't show up.
In 2000, UNC spent $150 grand for a 400-seat student section behind the basket, but still the student seating is limited -- especially in comparison to their arch rivals 3,500 student seats at Cameron Indoor.
For those students lucky enough to be randomly chosen and actually do show up when chosen, are consumed entirely by the game and the idolized Tar Heels. Whether it's a girl talking about how she saw Bobby Frasor on campus the other day and was surprised at how good-looking he was, or her friend next to her screaming at the ref to get glasses, Carolina life revolves around basketball.
Total Score: 34 (out of 50)