Blue Bell Battle

Blue Bell Battle

Saturday marks the annual gridiron clash of the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve already heard that this year’s battle for the Victory Bell is the earliest the game has been played in the history of the rivalry. On the other hand, here are some more fun facts you may not have known.

Stockpiles of Light Blue Spray Paint in Chapel Hill

Per tradition, whenever the Victory Bell switches hands, the victors update the trophy’s paint job with their corresponding shade of blue. While ownership of the bell has changed on multiple occasions in the past few decades, if UNC beats Duke on Saturday it will be the first time the Tar Heels have reclaimed the trophy on their home turf since 1983.

More Nets than Bells

While the Blue Devils have been revitalized in the past five years under Dave Cutcliffe, Carolina has dominated the past couple decades of the rivalry. In fact, Duke has won more NCAA basketball championships (5) than Victory Bell games (4) since 1990.


Since Larry Fedora took over as coach, UNC holds a 193-139 edge in aggregate points scored. However Duke has a 3-2 edge in terms of wins, with their three wins coming by an average of 2 points.


While UNC-Duke will always be considered a “basketball rivalry” nationally, football still matters. With that in mind, I came up with the special designation for when one school cleanly sweeps the revenue sports in an academic year: The FLAWLESS VICTORY BELL. To the “flawless” point, going 2-1 (in years where UNC and Duke met in the ACC tournament) doesn’t count.

Since Coach Mike Krzyzewski took over at Duke in 1980, UNC has secured a FLAWLESS VICTORY BELL on eight occasions (79-80, 81-82, 86-87, 93-94, 94-95*, 95-96, 06-07, & 08-09**) while Duke has accomplished the feat three times (87-88, 03-04, & 12-13)

*Technically this was with Pete Gaudet coaching, not Coach K.

**As part of the first-- DEEP SIGH --NCAA investigation (Club Liv not AFAM) the Victory was technically vacated by UNC. However since vacating wins is an empty exercise that only really appeals to the bitterness of rival fanbases, we’re still counting it.

John Tobben is a 2010 Carolina graduate and currently a radiology resident in Indianapolis.