March Madness – Congratulations UNC!!!
image: Carolina alumni online special edition
UNC defeated Michigan State 89 – 72 to walk away from the big dance the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions. And the crowd goes wild…
Hundreds of miles from snowy Detroit, fans heat up Franklin Street
by: Evan Rose, Assistant City Editor
A helicopter whirred overhead.
Firemen shuffled from foot to foot against the wind. Police quietly gathered on street corners.
Then the noise downtown began to grow, from the sporadic cheer to a steady, rising roar.
And when the buzzer blared 700 miles away, Franklin Street was buried by thousands of Carolina blue-clad fans, screaming, dancing and burning the clothes off their backs.
“The crowd is unity,” said Chase Beck, a senior. “I’ve never been prouder of my school. It’s all for the Carolina spirit.”
The crowd of more than 45,000 materialized in a matter of minutes after North Carolina’s 89-72 win against Michigan State to claim the 2009 NCAA title.
Fans poured from the doors of bars and restaurants. Waves of students sprinted downtown from their dorms and the Smith Center.
Together they became a tangled mass of bodies, hoisting each other onto their shoulders, spraying beer across the crowds, climbing street lights, hanging off trees and shouting into the mass below.
“I’ve wanted to go to this school forever, and this is the happiest moment of my entire life,” said first-year Mary Brent Barnard.
In the center of the crowd — right at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets — someone lit a shirt. The fire grew as revelers ripped off clothes to add to the flames.
And though Chapel Hill enlisted the help of more than 300 police officers to control the celebratory crowd, some students still managed to smuggle in wood to burn.
“We aren’t worried about safety,” said sophomore Lauren Traugott-Campbell. “We can’t be defeated. We just want it to get bigger.”
Firemen planned to let the fires burn, so long as they didn’t endanger any buildings.
Police patrolled the streets throughout the night, along with an additional 200 public workers, keeping on eye on the crowd.
Costs of crowd control this year are expected to be about the same as when UNC last took home the title in 2005.
The town and University footed a $165,000 bill that year to manage 45,000 celebrators in the streets.
As of 12:10 a.m., emergency services had treated one person for a fractured arm and another for alcohol consumption. There were no arrests at that time.
Police said they worried about burns, especially in the high winds.
But it didn’t seem like anything could damper Tuesday’s raging crowd.
“This is why you come to Carolina,” said junior Andrew Berry. “We’re an academic university, but secretly everybody wants that basketball title.”