Bowing to public pressure, UNC, Duke change stance on Victory Bell painting

Bowing to an uproar of protest from fans on social media and players both current and former, athletic directors Bubba Cunningham and Kevin White have reversed their stance and will allow the tradition of painting the Victory Bell to continue—
Members of the North Carolina football team pose around the Victory Bell after a recent win against arch-rival Duke. Athletic directors at both schools relented on an previous ruling and will continue to let players on the winning team paint the rotating trophy in their school colors.

The people have spoken and their voices have been heard. And no, this isn’t related to Tuesday’s election. Rather, it’s the uproar caused by a decision to redesign the look of the Victory Bell, the rolling trophy that goes to the winning team in the Duke-North Carolina football rivalry. Bowing to an uproar of protest from fans on social media and players both current and former, athletic directors Bubba Cunningham and Kevin White have reversed their stance and will allow the tradition of painting the bell and the cart on which it’s mounted to continue as usual.UNC and Duke will renew their rivalry on Thursday in Durham.”After talking to our football team and hearing from many of our fans, we have decided to maintain the tradition of the winning team painting the stand for the Victory Bell in its school colors,” Cunningham said in a statement Wednesday. “We are glad to see the passion and support for the game and the Victory Bell and await an exciting and entertaining contest tomorrow evening. “We will continue to share with people the history of the rivalry and the Victory Bell, while preserving the winning team’s enthusiasm for displaying their triumphant shade of blue.”Originated by a pair of cheerleaders, UNC’s Norman Spear and Duke’s Loring Jones, the bell was obtained from an old railroad train and has been awarded to the winner of the game between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils every year since 1948. Its cart is traditionally painted the shade of blue belonging to the previous year’s winner.But Monday, a new paint scheme featuring a half-and-half design with both teams’ colors and logo on it was unveiled. The controversial change was the direct result of an incident that took place immediately following the most recent game in Durham two seasons ago.UNC players did $27,000 damage to the visitors locker room and turf practice field at Wallace Wade Stadium that night while spray painting the bell in a victory celebration that got out of control. It has been reported that Cunningham paid for the repairs out of his own pocket. Cunningham told the Associated Press that the change in the new generic paint scheme “eliminates the opportunity for what happened two years ago,” adding that “we’re certainly not bringing any spray paint over to Durham.” Duke’s White did not have a comment on the subject. Coach Larry Fedora reiterated his boss’ sentiment, saying “we won’t be doing any painting” when asked about it after practice Monday. But apparently, his players had other plans. Senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer defiantly proclaimed “I’m bringing a can of Carolina Blue spray paint” to Thursday’s showdown at Wallace Wade Stadium. Senior cornerback Des Lawrence was even more adamant about his desire to do a little redecorating of his own to the bell while expressing his displeasure of the decision to change tradition. “It’s supposed to stay our color,” 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.” Now he and his teammates will be able to go ahead with their redecorating effort without facing any kind of punishment. That is, assuming they win the game.It goes without saying that Duke will have plenty of dark blue spray paint on hand in anticipation of breaking its two-game losing streak in the series. The Tar Heels have won 10 of the past 12 meetings. Although UNC (7-2, 5-1 ACC) is a heavy favorite in this year’s game against the injury-plagued Blue Devils, who limp into the game with a 3-6 (0-5), Fedora is wary of a Duke team that came within a possession of upsetting league heavyweights Louisville and Virginia Tech. Coach David Cutcliffe’s team also lost to Georgia Tech on a last-minute touchdown. “They could very easily have won all three of those games,” Fedora said. “We don’t really look at their record. We know we’re going to get their best game and hopefully we’re going to give them our best game.”