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The Secret Game, Remembered

Duke, NCCU students take the court this weekend to mark anniversary of historic game

The NCCU Eagle team in the Secret Game was coached by the legendary Hall of Famer John McLendon, pictured below.

Duke University and North Carolina Central University will combine efforts to host the First Annual Bull City Showdown: A History Revisited, a day-long basketball tournament featuring students from both campuses, on Saturday, April 17.

The event, which will take place on the NCCU campus, will be highlighted by various tributes to the "Secret Game" when, in 1944, an all-white team comprised of Duke Medical School students participated in a basketball contest with the men's basketball team from the North Carolina College for Negroes, now known as North Carolina Central University. Information about the game, which was played in front of zero spectators, was kept from the media and public as it violated the state's segregation laws.

John McLendon's fast-paced style of play presaged the high-flying teams of modern play.

"We are excited to work with our counterparts from North Carolina Central University to bring students from both campuses together for a day of basketball and celebration," said Felicia Tittle, Duke's Managing Director of Campus Recreation. "The Secret Game serves as a landmark event that ties Duke and NCCU together, and we are proud to recognize its place in our history on April 17th."

"This event is intended to unite two outstanding institutions just miles apart and celebrate one of the most historical events that Duke and NCCU share together," said Erica Dixon, the Director of Campus Recreation at North Carolina Central University. "North Carolina Central University is proud to host the inaugural tournament, and we're looking forward to a great turnout from both student bodies."

Beginning at 9 a.m., four men's teams and two women's squads from each institution will participate in a round robin schedule in the LeRoy T. Walker Physical Education Complex. The day will conclude with a all-star game to be played at 3 p.m. in NCCU's McDougald -McLendon Gymnasium. The showdown, which will include food vendors and live entertainment, will kick off NCCU's annual Spring Fling festivities.

A bus service from the Duke campus to NCCU will begin at 2:15 p.m. with designated pick-ups at the East Campus and West Campus bus stops.

Sponsors for the event include Duke Student Government, Duke University Office of Student Activities and Facilities, Duke Campus Recreation, Duke Athletics, NCCU Campus Recreation, and NCCU Athletics.

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Filmmakers re-enact the Secret Game for the documentary "Durham: A Self-Portrait"

More About the Secret Game

Because of the nature of the game, the participants kept it secret for decades until a 1996 New York Times story brought media attention to it. Here is some of the recent coverage of the game:

Defying the Color Line -- Duke Magazine

Jim Crow Loses -- New York Times March 31, 1996 (pdf)

"Breaking Through: John McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer"