Tobacco Road and the Final Four – Duke vs. UNC – 102 years later will there be another “jinx”?

Tonight (Saturday, April 2, 2022), for the first time ever, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill’s storied basketball teams will meet in the NCAA Final Four.  It is being heralded as one of the most exciting games in sports…ever.  And the Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, an avid basketball fan himself (and UNC grad), has declared North Carolina to be the center of the college basketball universe.  Those of us who live and work on Tobacco Road already knew that to be true, but it’s nice to have an official proclamation.  

In light of all this, as one of the few places where Duke and UNC [materials] come together, we thought we’d take a look back at the first game between these two great basketball programs as described by the teams’ fellow students on the newspaper and yearbook staffs.  On January 24, 1920, Duke (then Trinity College), took on UNC at Trinity in Durham and UNC won, 36-25.

The Daily Tar Heel  and the Chronicle both published articles detailing the game (and both note a game that may have happened in 1898 but we can’t find any articles about it – it was in 1898 that UNC introduced features of a new game known as basketball to their gym)

"Carolina Defeats Trinity by a Score Thirty-Six to Twenty-five" headline

Trinity College’s Chronicle staff had a bit of a different take on that particular game; the staff felt very strongly that it was a result of a “jinx” that Carolina won, not a better team.  After all, they then went on to beat State College (NCSU).

Trinity College headline about their basketball games

The yearbooks from each school also comment on the first matchup in their basketball features. Trinity’s yearbook added a note that will sound a bit too familiar to 2022 ears – their season was almost ended before it started due to the flu epidemic.  

Trinity’s Chanticleer staff felt it was a surprise to everyone – even UNC! – that UNC beat them:

Description of Trinity College's 1919-1920 basketball season

UNC takes a different tack, describing their win not as a surprise versus Trinity but as the result of a lot of hard work at the gym:

UNC's description of the effort they put in to beat Trinity College in basketball.

The yearbooks also feature team portraits – with UNC already sporting their familiar logo in 1920.

Portrait of white men posed with a basketball all wearing white uniforms with UNC's logo

UNC’s 1920 Basketball Team

Group of white men posed with a basketball with a "T" logo on their shirts

Trinity College’s (now Duke University) 1920 Basketball team

We’ll see what the matchup looks like tonight and inevitably, the resulting hot takes, 102 years later!  

If you want to check out more UNC and Duke content on DigitalNC, check out their partner pages.  UNC is here and Duke’s is here

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This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features the latest news and highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from organizations across North Carolina.

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