Rolling the emotional core of campus with toilet paper after wins: that’s what Auburn does.
And, apparently, so does Wake Forest:
Enthusiasm for athletic victories at Wake Forest University can be measured by the toilet paper in the trees. Wake Forest students, alumni and other fans celebrate game wins by “rolling the quad,” covering the center of campus with streamers of white tissue.
Discovering that another university* counts among its unique traditions the practice of covering trees with toilet paper after school victories felt kind of like when I learned as a kid that America had, at least in name, more than one “Auburn.” I didn’t like it. So I called Jim Coffey, Wake Forest’s Director of Landscape Services, whom I was told was responsible for cleaning the campus after rollings. I was looking for apples-to-oranges distinctions that would help me prove the Demon Deacons as one-ply impostors. I wanted to feel special again. His first words were a good start.
“So y’all have a toilet paper issue at Auburn, too?” he said when he answered the phone. “I’m sorry.”
He wasn’t apologizing for bursting my bubble; he was jokingly attempting to empathize. For Coffey, the tradition is an “issue,” and a hassle.
Unlike Auburn, which contracts with a Montgomery-based commercial janitorial service for the removal of all of the toilet paper thrown into the oaks at Toomer’s Corner after an Auburn win, the powers that be in Winston-Salem are content to let their facilities management department “clean it up only when it hits the ground, like when leaves fall,” said Coffey, who had never heard of Auburn’s version of the tradition. “We go up there with a blower and clean up as much as we can when it’s over but we don’t take water hoses up there and take it out of the trees.”
Coffey said his cleanup crews range from 3 to 18 people, depending “on how heavy the toilet paper is.”
“Every once in a while a student group will volunteer to help clean it up, but then that group graduates,” he said. “It’s easier for us to consider it just a cost of doing business at Wake Forest and just do it on our own.”
General search result consensus seems to point to the aftermath of the Demon Deacon’s football win over Georgia Tech to clinch the 2006 ACC Championship as the most extensive rolling of the quad in recent memory, but the tradition supposedly started in the late 50s after the university moved from the actual town of Wake Forest to Winston-Salem. According to at least one educated guess, that’s slightly before the first substantial assaults on Toomer’s Corner began.
“On the old campus, students used to ring the bell in Wait Hall, an administration building,” Wake Forest history professor Ed Hendricks was quoted as saying in a 2006 news release. “There was a bell pull that anyone could access, including students. When the university moved… there were bells in Wait Chapel but no bell pull. Students had to find a new way to celebrate.”
Had Coffey had his way in the mid 80s, they would have had to find another new way: Coffey not only dislikes the tradition, he once deemed it expendable and led a short, albeit unsuccessful campaign to end it.
Which made me feel better; had he tried this at Auburn… well, he wouldn’t have tried this at Auburn.
“I was 26 when I got here and I thought wow, this is really worth changing, we’re going to stop it,” he said. “But as we’ve all aged in our positions, we understand that, OK, this really is part of the culture of Wake Forest… I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t see any toilet paper.”
So when does he see it?
“Kids will come out after we win a basketball or football game,” he said.
“Or a debate tournament.”
I smiled and thanked him for his time.
* If there are more, just don’t tell me.
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