CHAPEL HILL — Notre Dame’s arrival to the ACC likely will allow UNC and N.C. State to continue their nearly 100-year-old tradition of playing twice a year.
Their home-and-home series, which dates to 1920, was at risk after the ACC moved to an 18-game schedule in anticipation of Pittsburgh and Syracuse joining for the 2013-14 season.
With Notre Dame on board as the 15th team, commissioner John Swofford said teams likely will have two scheduling partners in an 18-game conference schedule.
Duke and UNC are partners, as are N.C. State and Wake Forest.
When asked if that meant N.C. State would be the Tar Heels’ second partner, Swofford smiled.
“I think that has a good chance of happening,” he said.
Notre Dame is scheduled to join the ACC for the 2015-16 season but athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the school would look into accelerating that timeline. Pittsburgh and Syracuse paid higher exit fees to leave the Big East one year early.
Notre Dame will become the sixth former Big East school in the ACC, which will ease the Fighting Irish’s transition, coach Mike Brey said.
“That’s a neat challenge, to come and certainly play in Cameron, (Smith Center), Maryland, all the different places, yet to still play at Pittsburgh and at the Carrier Dome (in Syracuse) and back at (Boston College),” Brey said. “There’s a little bit of that Big East flavor that, I think, makes it even more interesting for the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
The switch will be a homecoming for Brey, who grew up attending camps and games at Maryland and was an assistant at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski from 1987-1995.
“It’s great for our basketball program, it’s a shot in the arm,” Brey said. “It’s a league that’s going to get eight, nine NCAA tournament bids annually. We had that going in the Big East. We’ve lost some of that. I think I’m joining that again now. The depth of our league will be amazing.”
Under Brey, Notre Dame has played Duke, UNC, N.C. State and Wake Forest one time each and is 0-4. Since the 2000-01 season, the Fighting Irish are 24-27 against future ACC opponents.
Notre Dame has been among the toughest teams to beat at home in the past five years, amassing a 100-7 record in the Joyce Center. That total includes a 67-58 win over then No. 1-ranked Syracuse last January, which left the Orange 20-1.
“It will be nice to get them at our place, because last time I checked, we win a lot of games at home,” Brey said of future matchups against Duke and UNC. “And it’s an exciting challenge to come back and play at Duke and play here at Chapel Hill.”
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton saw no downside to adding the Irish.
“There’s nothing but positive things you can say about the footprint being expanded,” Hamilton said. “Notre Dame is a quality team that adds name recognition and exposure for our conference.”
That thought was echoed around the Triangle.
“The ACC’s decision to add Notre Dame has my full support,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “I wish to welcome the Fighting Irish and their fans to the ACC.”
While expansion will change the ACC tournament format -- there likely will be three Wednesday games and byes for the top four seeds, Swofford said -- it will solidify local rivalries by adding the second partner. In a way, growth will preserve tradition.
“For a long time, I was against conference growth,” said Eric Montross, a former UNC player and current Tar Heels broadcaster. “I felt the ACC was unique and didn’t need to change because it was strong, balanced and because of that the ACC of old should stay. But over time, it’s become apparent that that’s an archaic perspective.
“You have to get larger to stay alive, so you look for the best partners,” he said about Notre Dame. “This is one.”