Local News

UNC fans in Detroit, Chapel Hill celebrate victory

Posted April 6, 2009 11:50 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2009 5:25 a.m. EDT

— After the last buzzer sounded, Carolina fans – whether in Detroit or Chapel Hill – began to celebrate the University of North Carolina's fifth men's basketball national championship.

For those who couldn't be in Detroit, Franklin Street was the place to be, where fans crowded into bars and restaurants six hours before tipoff.

Police estimated that 30,000 fans rushed Franklin Street and adjacent areas as soon as the game ended. At one point, WRAL News counted 24 bonfires, and people were jumping through them.

Police said that had had no major problems as of 2 a.m.

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

Officers canvassed the area for potential dangers and were set up to respond to any incidents. Franklin Street and nearby areas were closed to traffic after the game, and police confiscated alcohol, weapons, combustible objects or pets in the closed-off area.

The security operation costs "in the neighborhood of a couple hundred thousand dollars," Chapel Hill Assistant Fire Marshall Dace Bergen said.

Another stream of fans came from the Dean Smith Center, where about 4,000 fans had watched 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, who was at Ford Field in Detroit, was the winner of a bet with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Granholm will have to give $100 to a North Carolina food bank and appear on the Internet wearing Carolina colors.

Before the game, Perdue said, Granholm called saying she couldn't' make it because she was sick.

"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.

Also in the stands were about 400 UNC students in a student section close to the game. Like their team, they weren't intimidated by being badly outnumbered by Michigan State fans.

"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.

He got his wish.