Lynn Stockwell brought her husband and three young daughters to the Duke women’s basketball game Sunday, wearing Christmas sweaters that earned them free admission.
Borrowing garments from an ugly-sweater party the night before, the Durham family became part of an attempt to support the Duke women and break a Guinness World Record on the same night. And, Stockwell said, she wanted to expose her children to women’s basketball.
Reindeer circled Christine Barboriak’s sweater, and her 10-year-old daughter, Josie, wore a green tinsel headband with her sequined sweater. The Durham family of four holds season tickets but took part in the Christmas sweater effort anyway.
Barboriak said that she didn’t think Duke students showed enough support for the women’s basketball team and that the holiday initiative was helpful.
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“It’s nice to see that the community has adopted them as our team,” she said.
Despite the absence of many students, including cheerleaders, who are on holiday break, the Duke women’s basketball team scored a significant turnout at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the 6,043 ticket sales stacking up to games against perennial foes such as South Carolina. Not only were fans looking for a win against the Kentucky Wildcats – ranked No. 8 compared to No. 13-ranked Duke – they were also chasing that world record.
Noticing the widespread tacky holiday sweater trend, Duke marketers decided to go after the Guinness World Record for the most people wearing holiday sweaters at one time. The current record is held by a group from the United Kingdom, where 639 people wore Christmas sweaters to claim victory in 2012, according to a Duke spokesperson.
‘Turn down for what’
The contest seemed to heighten the holiday spirit in Cameron: An angry Santa Claus booed a referee’s bad call. An older couple dressed in festive polyester and Santa hats sprang to their feet when the Duke team scored. An older woman in a Christmas green sweater swung her hips to the hip-hop house-rocker “Turn Down for What,” jingle bells ringing on her necklace, and the crowd erupted.
Wendy Bishop of Raleigh, also a season ticket holder, thought that the crowd turnout was unusually large because of the attempt to break a record and the game’s high stakes.
“It’s been a little disappointing,” she said of the season’s overall attendance. “They’re a great group of girls, and they need our support.”
Fans received free tickets for the 3 p.m. game if they showed support for the team and wore a decorative holiday sweater. Those who wanted to participate in breaking the world record could also add reindeer and accessories to their sweaters.
The rules required participants to only wear Christmas jumpers or sweaters that included a traditional Christmas character, item or theme, such as Santa Claus or a Christmas tree – solid-colored red or green sweaters did not qualify, nor did Christmas vests.
“We want our student-athletes to experience the best environment and crowd possible during their time here at Duke,” said Jacki Silar, senior associate director of athletics at Duke University. “We think this would provide a great opportunity for our fans and community to rally around our team and the world record attempt.”
The official count
After the game, hundreds of fans funneled through the tunnels at Section 18 for an official count and group photo for submission to the Guinness Book of World Records.
No dice this time: Duke fans hit less than half the needed sweaters, with an unofficial count of 303. That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the participants, though, as many left the legendary arena thrilled with another prize: an 89-68 victory over the higher-ranked Wildcats.