"Tales from Tobacco Road" - A Duke Alum Recounts Life in Krzyzewskiville

K-ville in the dead of winter. 100% worth it. Photo by J. Crowell By John Crowell,  Class of ’08

33 years ago, when the legendary Mike Krzyzewski first stepped foot on the Duke University campus, no one could have predicted that he would build a college basketball empire inside a tiny 9,000 seat gym in Durham, North Carolina. There were no national titles at Duke. There was no Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick or even DeMarcus Nelson. Today, Duke proudly hangs banners from 4 NCAA Championships, 15 Final Four Appearances, and countless ACC Championships at the crown jewel of college basketball venues, Cameron Indoor Stadium. This article will take you on a journey to a place you may have never seen or heard of before. A place where students endure one of the harshest environments on planet earth. The conditions are grueling. Temperatures can reach as low as zero degrees. An average day may consist of rain, snow, sleet and bitter winds. There are no restaurants, no vendors, and no source of readily available nourishment. An individual may consistently fight hunger and thirst with Natural Light and ChexMix.  This, my friends, is Krzyzewskiville.

Day 1

6:30AM - A familiar blue hue is reflected within the tent of a Cameron Crazy. The sun has risen above the gothic architecture at Duke University, casting majestic shadows among Krzyzewskiville (K-Ville). With the ascending sun comes rising temperatures. From the bitter cold and damp night, comes a humid, sweat filled morning in an 8-person tent. Cell phone alarms sound and chatter breaks out. It is time for the Crazies to take on the day and head off to class to earn their degree.

For many freshman Crazies, there is no time to shower or change as their dormitories are located 2 miles away on a separate campus. In droves they file towards the Old Chemistry building as most enter Duke with Pre-Med or Engineering aspirations. The stench of the average Crazy is palpable. As a freshman, every academic course is in the morning and a considerable distance from home, leading to afternoon showers and naps. Unfortunately for some, this blissful moment may be delayed when returning for a check-in at K-Ville is required.

12:30AM - An ear piercing crackle emits from outside of Cameron Indoor followed by a blue coated individual on a megaphone calling for a mandatory check-in. This person is the Line Monitor. They are fellow colleagues at Duke of all classes, from freshman to seniors. However, to many they are viewed as reincarnations of the Blue Devil himself. Armed with the power to “bump” tents and give “warnings”, they are no better than the parking police. Emboldened by their artificial power, they cause panic among the Crazies.

12:35pm - In the distance, a gangly student, having never taken a full running stride, races awkwardly toward the check in. Papers are flying, books are crashing to the concrete and unfamiliar muscles are pulsating. “Tent 31, Tent 31!” proclaims the Monitor. At last, the Crazy arrives in a sweat, gasping for oxygen in the crisp winter air. He presents the Monitor with his student I.D. and a check mark is made, confirming their presence.

This ritual is performed all throughout the day at intervals even the best of engineers cannot predict. The only solution is to have one member in the party remain at the tent at all times. Tempting fate by leaving the tent unmanned could result in the loss of a coveted tent position, or even worse, stadium seating (or standing room only in this case).

5:30PM – As the sun arches across the gray sky, temperatures begin to decline and darkness sets upon the campus. Dinners are finished, showers are completed and homework is organized for the upcoming evening.  The Crazies must now return to K-Ville for the night.

7:00PM – What happens next is a sight to behold. One by one Crazies return to K-Ville and an incredible transformation occurs. What was once a tranquil and barren landscape now turns into a bustling town. Roars of laughter erupt inside of a tent as a story about an uneducated Tar Hole is told. Not far away, the nostalgic sound of ping pong balls careening off red solo cups can be heard long into the night. All the while, dedicated students huddle under the lamps lining K-Ville, surrounding the extension cords which supply a lifeline to their bulky laptops.

"oooooooooooo" "oooooooooooooooooo"


Day 30

Fast forward four weeks and students are still camping out in line. Arduous days have passed. Grass has turned into mud.  The orchard of tents sway meekly in the wind as the past month has taken its toll. Tarps overlay broken tents, piles of beer cases lay amongst the rows and many other signs of a battered community are displayed. But a scent of excitement is in the air as K-Ville is about to embark on another remarkable transformation.

There are parts of the basketball universe that tailgate before big games – in Durham, North Carolina there is the 24 hour party to tip-off of the world’s best rivalry. As the day before the game progresses, K-Ville’s population grows vigorously with the advancement of more Crazies. Tents are abandoned and the grounds become rich with students, fans and relatives. There is a glorious influx of Natty Ice, pizza, red solo cups and glee. Games of beer pong, flippy cup, kings and many other inventive games are taking place.

8:00PM (Rivalry Eve) - As the students "party on Wayne", out comes the man himself. Below his office building, Coach Krzyzewski, in all his magnificence, gathers a crowd of awe stricken Crazies around himself and the team. He then calms the rabid fans and delivers an inspirational speech that drives a tingle up your spine. One final gesture towards the parking lot as Domino's Pizza arrives by the truck load and the real party commences.

The 6th man has just been emboldened and raised to a herculean level of pride. All through the night, music echoes off the stone walls, sending out a resounding message for miles that Duke is ready and UNC better be wary. Tents are thrashed as an animalistic mentality erupts. Men beat their chests and women dance around jovially. It is truly a site to be had.

The night passes and the sought after day has finally arrived. The weather is perfect as the sun beams down on Cameron Indoor creating a radiant and pulsating aura. GAME DAY. The Crazies ritually paint themselves blue and white in preparation for battle. The rest cannot be described in words. The atmosphere inside that building versus UNC can only be truly appreciated in person.

Standing sideways in the bleachers with arms extended, the Crazies are now inside. The journey is complete and now it is time for Carolina to go to Hell.


John Crowell's Definitive Guide to Surviving Krzyzewskiville

  • Tent: The quality depends on the size of your group, your affinity for tents, and cost. There is a low survivability rate of tents after "Tent Diving" before the game.
  • Chairs and Tables: It's your new home for a month, make it comfortable.
  • Electronics: Extension cords, computers, ipads, etc. Education is still required when tenting.
  • Snacks: Food is available nearby, but sometimes that's just too far. Always have a supply of munchies around.
  • Walkie-Talkie: Because cell phones are boring.
  • Bedding: Face it, you're going to be living in a tent for 4-6 weeks, get comfy. Air mattresses are critical to survival in K-Ville.
  • Warmth: It's not the Midwest, but it gets damn cold, and damp, and muddy, and rainy, and then sunny, and crisp like Thanksgiving morning, or then lightning and thunder. Who knows. It's North Carolina. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, sweaters, jackets, beanies, uggs, other people. Anything you can do to stay warm.
  • Booze: And lots of it. The best warmth is often found within a cold Natty Lite... or 15. It also adds to the entertainment value. A lot of time is spent sitting idly, so why not crack a 24 rack and invent some games.
  • Friends... Good Friends: This may seem obvious, but you will get to know your peers at Duke quite quickly. Cannibalism no, but it is not a far cry from some of the intense moments you'll have in K-Ville. The tent police are strict and you must work together to stay alive in line, literally and figuratively. There is no greater test of friendship than a month in Krzyzewskiville.

Austin Rivers ripped out the hearts of Tar Heel fans in the Dean Dome last year