Celebrating Wake Forest wins: toilet paper tradition
December 17, 2007
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 trees in Hearn Plaza at the center of campus with streamers of white tissue.
"Rolling the quad started on this campus, and was in practice as early as 1961, which was when I arrived,” said Ed Hendricks, professor of history at Wake Forest.
The tradition, while popular with Wake Forest fans of all ages, began mostly because of the 173-year-old university’s 1956 move from the town of Wake Forest, N.C., to Winston-Salem.
"On the old campus, students used to ring the bell in Wait Hall, an administration building,” Hendricks said. “There was a bell pull that anyone could access, including students,” Hendricks said. “When the university moved here, there were bells in Wait Chapel but no bell pull. Students had to find a new way to celebrate.”
Prior to Wake Forest’s move, students at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem had been rolling the trees on their campus to celebrate victories.
“We can safely say that Wake Forest students adopted the tradition from students at R.J. Reynolds High School,” Hendricks said. “This was probably reinforced by Reynolds High School graduates bringing the tradition with them when they enrolled at Wake Forest.”
At first, students were the primary rollers, but as the tradition became more firmly established, alumni and their families also raced to Hearn Plaza to be among the first to drape the trees in white. Following Wake Forest’s win over Georgia Tech for the 2006 ACC football championship, hundreds of fans turned out to completely cover the lawn and trees with toilet paper.
Demon Deacon fans regularly honor the football and basketball teams this way, but big wins in other sports, including field hockey, often bring out the rollers.
On occasion, rolling the quad also has been a way to celebrate non-athletic successes. Following the 2000 presidential debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore in Wake Forest’s Wait Chapel, students, faculty, staff and others rolled the quad with red, white and blue streamers. Wake Forest’s math club rolled the quad in celebration of Wake Forest students winning the Mathematical Contest in Modeling, an international competition, in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
When beloved basketball coach Skip Prosser died suddenly July 26, mourners rolled the quad in tribute to him twice before his funeral five days later.
Most fans bring their own toilet paper to the quad after victories, but Facilities Management staff said that, evidently, some students also take rolls out of the bathrooms in the residence halls. Facilities Management staff normally stock the bathrooms before the weekends, but not for rolling purposes. Of course, most games are on the weekends and quite often they have to restock the bathrooms on Mondays.
The university cannot calculate the amount of toilet paper used to roll the quad, but one thing is for sure: big wins mean more toilet paper. So, if Wake Forest wins the Meineke Car Care Bowl Dec. 29—the university’s first back-to-back bowl appearance—the trees on the quad are likely to be covered in white.