CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A longstanding North Carolina football tradition has apparently come to an end ahead of Thursday’s matchup with Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium.
In 1948, UNC’s Norm Speer and Duke’s Loring Jones, the respective head cheerleaders for their football programs, worked together to create a symbolic trophy to exchange annually after each rivalry game. Speer found an old railroad engine bell and Jones asked his engineering professor to design a cart, and thus the Victory Bell was created.
During the 1948 season, the bell was shared and painted to represent both schools, one half painted Duke blue and the other half painted Carolina blue, until the rivalry game was played. UNC won both the game and the bell, starting a long tradition of the victor painting the bell with its school colors as bragging rights until the next meeting.
While the Victory Bell remains a staple of this rivalry, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham caused an uproar this week by unveiling a new-look bell split down the middle to represent both schools in the rivalry.
“Every other rivalry trophy or symbol I’ve ever seen has both teams on it, and the winner gets the prize and they keep it,” Cunningham told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “And it exchanges back and forth. And anytime I’ve ever been near the Victory Bell, I have to explain to people what it is. It’s a bell on a cart. I actually think having both logos on it gives you some idea what it is. It’s a Victory Bell for the winner of the Duke-Carolina game. So that is really what was behind it.”
Cunningham and Duke athletic director Kevin White agreed to the change. The last time the bell was painted occurred on a Thursday night at Wallace Wade Stadium in 2014. After the 45-20 victory, the Tar Heels charged the cart and got to work painting it Carolina blue while ringing the bell in celebration.
The party continued into the locker room, resulting in Duke billing UNC $27,170.44 for costs related to spray paint damage. Larry Fedora and Cunningham wrote personal checks to cover the costs. Fedora claimed ignorance when asked about the makeover on Monday night, telling reporters it was news to him and that he didn’t know what was behind the change.
When asked about the incident from 2014, Fedora replied, “We won’t do any painting.”
Cunningham reiterated that point to the Associated Press, saying, “we’re certainly not bringing any spray paint over to Durham.”
The Tar Heels, most of whom did not care for the revamped look, voiced other plans after Monday’s practice.
“I thought it stayed the color of the team that won the previous year,” senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer said. “I’m bringing a can of Carolina blue spray paint.”
Switzer was not alone in that plan of action.
“It’s supposed to stay our color,” senior cornerback Des Lawrence said. “But now that I’m thinking about it, I really wouldn’t mind painting it Carolina Blue again. We are going to do it. We may bring our own spray paint.”
UNC has a 45-22-1 record against Duke since the Victory Bell was introduced.
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