Local News

UNC fans in Detroit, Chapel Hill anticipate victory

Posted April 6, 2009 12:06 p.m. EDT
Updated April 6, 2009 11:09 p.m. EDT

— Whether in Chapel Hill or Detroit, Tar Heels fans want to throw a national championship-caliber party after the University of North Carolina takes on Michigan State for the NCAA men’s basketball championship Monday night.

"I'm not really worried about classes right now. I'm just worried about basketball. I'm worried about this win," UNC student Sam Mondonedo said.

For those who couldn't be in Detroit, Franklin Street was the place to be. Fans started crowding into bars and restaurants six hours before the game.

"I'm going straight to Franklin Street, and it'll be all chaos, because you know they're going to be the champions," UNC student Shawn Mingus said.

Police expect that about 10 times the number of people that hit Franklin Street after UNC's semifinal victory Saturday will show up there if Carolina wins the championship tonight – between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

Eight additional agencies lent about 275 personnel to help keep the revelers in check.

"Police, fire, EMS, we want to make sure the celebration is safe," Chapel Hill Assistant Fire Marshal Dace Bergen said. "We're hoping that nobody starts bonfires. And if somebody else starts bonfires, please don't jump through them."

Officers canvassed the area for potential dangers and then set up to respond to any incidents. Franklin Street and nearby areas might be closed to traffic after the game. Police will confiscate alcohol, weapons, combustible objects or pets into the closed-off area.

The security operation costs "in the neighborhood of a couple hundred thousand dollars," Bergen said.

About 4,000 fans gathered in the Dean Smith Center to watch the game on a 15 by 20 foot screen.

"I could have watched it at home, but to be in an atmosphere with thousands of other Carolina fans, cheering on our team in this national event, there is nothing better," Dean Dome attendee Eric Whitehead said.

Gov. Bev Perdue was among the higher-profile Carolina fans watching the game in Detroit, where a chilly snow fell earlier in the day.

Perdue bet Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm $100 to a food bank from the victor's home state. But Granholm couldn't make the game, claiming sickness said, Perdue said.

"I told her she's got the 'blue flu.' She's afraid to show up because we're going to whip them – badly," Perdue said.

The North Carolina governor refuted the storyline that Michigan State should win the championship to cheer up a hard-hit, auto-industry state.

"This has nothing to do with the economy. This about good old hoops, and Carolina's going to take it home," Perdue said.

Also in the stands were about 400 UNC students in a student section close to the game. They waited about five hours in cold, blowing snow outside Ford Field to get a good spot.

"This is the first year they've had students on the floor. And I just think right now, it's like the number-one college experience," UNC student Lindsey Mason said. "And hopefully tonight, when we bring home that championship, it's going to be number one like by far."

Students said they expected to outnumbered by Michigan State fans in their home turf but won't be intimidated.

"I don't mind being in the lower number, so long as everybody's quiet at the end of the game and we're walking out happy," UNC student James Ludemann said.