Postgame UNC-Duke kerfuffle could change football rivalry protocol

A relatively minor kerfuffle, broken up before it escalated, between Duke and UNC players and coaches on Saturday could lead to changes in protocol for the Duke-North Carolina football rivalry.

Both Duke coach David Cutcliffe and UNC coach Mack Brown said Monday they are in favor of moving the Victory Bell trophy to a neutral location at some point during the game to keep the opposing players from interacting following the game.

“We need the bell, regardless of the score or who has it, put in some sort of a neutral place, so you don’t have two teams coming together and something horrific happens,” Cutcliffe said. “What you need is at the start of the fourth quarter you figure out, in both stadiums, where the bell is. So if it’s retained, there’s not a problem. If it’s lost, there’s not a problem.”

During his regularly scheduled press conference in Chapel Hill two hours later, Brown agreed with Cutcliffe’s idea.

“What I’m going to suggest is that we put the bell somewhere that’s not near the other team,” Brown said. “We don’t need the teams coming together after an emotional game to get that bell, because that bell is important. Put it in the middle of the field.”

Traditionally, the game’s winner retains possession of the Victory Bell trophy on its campus for a year until the next game is played. On game day, the trophy is wheeled into the stadium and stays on that team’s sideline while the game is played.

Once the game is over, that team keeps possession if it wins. Players rolls it around the field ringing it in celebration.

If the previous year’s losing team wins, it is wheeled over to its players so they can celebrate with it.

UNC’s Jordan Tucker taunts Duke fans

On Saturday, UNC intercepted a Duke pass at the goal line with 14 seconds left that allowed the Tar Heels to post a 20-17 win over the Blue Devils. Duke had won the previous three games and had the trophy on its sideline during the game.

When UNC won, the trophy was wheeled by Duke staff on to the field for UNC’s players to take it.

One UNC player, sophomore offensive lineman Jordan Tucker, taunted Duke’s fans by walking up to the section where they were sitting and repeatedly waving goodbye to them.

According to Brown and Duke quarterback Quentin Harris, Tucker was possibly in the area to retrieve his helmet.

That left him standing directly in front of the tunnel that led to Duke’s sideline. Duke’s players and coaches were leaving the field to head up the tunnel to their locker room where they encountered Tucker still taunting their fans.

As Duke staff attempted to keep their players separated from Tucker, he headed back toward to the field while continuing to wave to Duke’s fans. Tucker posted a video clip on social media showing Duke defensive lineman Derrick Tangelo swiping at his head with an open hand and missing.

Cutcliffe, after the traditional post-game hand shake at midfield with Brown, was running off the field with a state trooper escorting him when they came upon Tucker. Cutcliffe put his hands on Tucker’s chest before pointing with one hand for him to leave and head back to the UNC side with his teammates.

With the state trooper in between them, Tucker swiped at Cutcliffe’s hands and Cutcliffe then pushed two hands in Tucker’s direction. UNC’s staff members were able to get Tucker removed from the area.

Second Duke-UNC postgame incident

If both schools decide to change the location of the Victory Bell in accordance with the coaches wishes, it would be the second time a postgame incident has led to a protocol change in the last five years.

Prior to 2015, tradition was for the winning team to not only take control of the bell, but spray paint it in its particular shade of blue during the postgame celebration.

When UNC beat Duke 45-20 in 2014 at Wallace Wade Stadium, the Tar Heels used their spray paint to deface walls inside the stadium, Duke’s practice field and the visiting locker room.

Duke billed UNC $27,170.44 for the damages.

UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham and then-UNC coach Larry Fedora wrote personal checks, for $13,585.22 each, to cover the damages.

Since then, the painting of the bell is no longer done in the immediate aftermath of the game. The winning team does it at another time.

Jonathan M. Alexander contributed.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.