Duke Basketball: Fans Back In Cameron For Scrimmage | Charlotte Observer

By Steve Wiseman


It’s been 19 months since Duke’s basketball team trotted out to the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium to the din of its boisterous fans.

Friday night, the pandemic-induced silence ends at Duke’s Countdown to Craziness scrimmage.

The noise of the game, whether hearing boos in road venues or the full-throated support of the famed Cameron Crazies in Duke’s historic home venue, is what Mike Krzyzewski missed most last season when spectators weren’t allowed to attend games.

“Our game is about fans and emotion,” Krzyzewski said this week. “And whether you’re at home or on the road, it takes everyone to a different level. And so I’m anxious to see what that does Friday, and then move on from it.”

Friday night would already be special because it’s the last time Krzyzewski will take part in the Countdown to Craziness activities as an active coach. After this season, he’ll retire and associate head coach Jon Scheyer takes over the top job.

But the preseason event takes on more importance because the atmosphere is back after a long absence.

To allow fans back in the building, Duke instituted health and safety protocols requiring proof of full vaccination from COVID-19, or a negative test result within the last 72 hours, for anyone aged 12 and above to enter the building.

In addition, a mask mandate will be in place for any spectators, staff or media members age five and above, except when actively eating and drinking.

That means the Cameron Crazies in the packed, cramped student section are supposed to be masked up. That goes for everyone else, too, although Krzyzewski is skeptical. He chuckled when mentioning football crowds, where mask mandates are in place but few people adhere.

“When you get all those people together, who’s going to police that?” Krzyzewski said.

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The players, coaches and officials will not be masked, Krzyzewski said. The high vaccination rate among Duke’s students and the ACC officiating crew, along with Duke employees, give everyone a sense of safety.

“Duke’s done a really good job of that,” Krzyzewski said.

Down the road at UNC-Chapel Hill, masks will be required for spectators at the Dean E. Smith Center for men’s basketball games and Carmichael Arena for women’s basketball games. While strongly encouraged, vaccines are not required for entry at UNC.

Duke made full vaccination mandatory for students on campus and on Oct. 1 it became a requirement for employment by Duke.

Duke launched a website, DukeCheckIn.com, where people can upload proof of vaccination status or a negative test result prior to arriving at Cameron. That allows visitors to display their confirmation status on their phones for entry at the stadium gates for a faster process.

Anyone who doesn’t preregister must show their proof of vaccination or negative test at one of six verification tents surrounding Cameron.

Fans wishing to attend games at Cameron without meeting those requirements must stop by Blue Devil Tower, at Wallace Wade Stadium, where they’ll be charged $45 to take a rapid antigen test. All positive antigen tests will be confirmed with a PCR test for no additional charge to guest.

In addition to Duke’s near 100% vaccination compliance on campus, Durham County’s rate of full vaccination for people 12 and older is 74%, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Neighboring counties Orange (79%) and Wake (77%) are also among the state’s most vaccinated counties.

Even though the novel coronavirus pandemic that was declared in March 2020 remains active and a public-health threat, the implemented mitigation factors give Duke and government health officials confidence in allowing spectators to gather indoors again.

Duke’s players and coaches got a limited view of what it will be like last Saturday when around 500 people attended a practice at Cameron. Those people were allowed in by paying $100, with the proceeds going to support Duke Children’s Hospital.

The crowd stood and cheered when the Blue Devils, with their soon-to-be-retired coach, took the court.

“You could see that our players love that,” Krzyzewski said.

He loved it, too, because the sounds of basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium are a big reason why he’s remained coaching Duke for all these years.

Source : https://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/college/article254972542.html