The Robertson Scholars Program was such a good idea that there was no reason to expect that it would ever work. The Robertsons are idealists. They thought they could bridge the unbridgeable gulf: not between the Palestinians and the Israelis, not between the Bosnians and the Serbs, not between the Hutu and Tutsi, but worse, between the Devils from Hell and the Tar Heels from Chapel Hill. Julian and Josie Robertson, God bless their souls, thought it could be done. They were wrong.
As any sophomore biology major (or anyone of any age from a NC State household) could tell you, if you mate a thorough-bred horse with a jackass you get a mule. It was quite foreseeable how this program would collapse.
Duke Student government has decided to ban Carolina fans -- that is to say Robertson scholars -- from their basketball ticket distribution, despite the program's pledge, and the agreement of the participating universities, that the Robertson Scholars, who are students at Duke and UNC, "have full student rights and privileges at both universities." The Duke administration said it will not "intervene."
Of course, you are thinking, there is nothing worst than being banned from a squalid slum worthy of Calcutta. Popularly, and appropriately, known as Krzyzewskiville, it's where hundreds of Duke students live for months in muddy muck surrounded by fly-infested heaps of soggy pizza boxes and empty beer cans. Students participating in this "camp out" get tickets to Duke men's home basketball games.
So, now, UNC Robertson scholars will not be allowed to tread this hallowed ground.
You must understand the context. It was Freshman Night -- previously known as Senior Night -- at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The last regular basketball season contest between Duke and UNC, and for the Duke seniors, led by everybody's All-Americans J.J. Reddick and Shelden Williams, it was their final moment to bask in the dim glow of the Cameron limelight. Didn't happen. Roy's boys, Tar Heel freshmen, did not just win convincingly but as a group outscored and outplayed the Duke seniors, much to the dismay of those wearing depressingly dark blue garb.
Now comes the fun part: in the middle of the Duke student section, a visible contingent baring their Tar Heel blue torsos to the crowd, the players and the most viewers ever for an ESPN broadcast.
So why were these young UNC Robertson scholars there? They were, of course, trying their best to meet the goals and mission of the Robertson Scholars Program (which are quoted below in italics from its website: www.robertsonscholars.org).
The Robertson Scholars Program helps young leaders acquire the tools they need to transform themselves and change the world. The UNC Robertson scholars were there bringing a bright blue light to the dark recesses of Cameron. And if pulling off Duke blue clothes to reveal Carolina blue painted-skin isn't "transforming yourself," what is?
Robertson Scholars . . . will fully embrace the academic, social and cultural opportunities of two campuses that are uniquely available to them. If there is another culture in the world more foreign to tasteful and graceful Tar Heel fans than Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the obscene chant is considered an artform, I don't know of it, do you?
Scholars will . . . conduct themselves in such a way that they will bring credit to themselves, other Robertson Scholars, and Duke and UNC. Cheering heartily for their team, against a favored rival in his own confines, showed not just dedication and loyalty but bravery beyond any call. They deserve extra credit, don't you think?
Students . . . make the most of opportunities that are presented to them . . . create possibilities where none may have previously existed. Who ever thought this possibility could or would exist, and who would have the initiative to bring this to pass? The UNC Robertson scholars, who else?
Duke supporters of the ban claim that the UNC Robertsons' actions ruined last spring's game for many Duke students and said they don't want a repeat performance when the two teams meet this year in Cameron. They can want what they want. The Robertson scholars didn't ruin the game for Duke students, the Tar Heel basketball team did, and Duke student government can't ban them, I don't think.
Duke Robertson scholars are still welcome to the Senior Game at UNC this year, assuming the Robertson program continues, crippled as it is. I don't expect they will ruin anything unless their tears stain their clothes.
Gary D. Gaddy once (it was the season Krzyzewski's back went out) stood in the Duke student section with his darling wife, an admitted Duke law student at the time but always a dyed-in-the-light-blue Carolina fan, as they both cheered for the Heels as they whipped the Devils, 102-100, in double overtime, not that he'd remember.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, December 21, 2006. Copyright 2006 Gary D. Gaddy