ACC welcomes Notre Dame

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--- The Atlantic Coast Conference officially welcomed Notre Dame as the fifteenth member of its league in a Wednesday afternoon press conference inside UNC's Kenan Stadium.
Commissioner John Swofford, along with UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, and Clemson President James Barker, represented the league and the ACC Council of Presidents, which unanimously voted in the Fighting Irish as a full member in all sports but football and hockey.
"On behalf of the ACC Council of Presidents, it is my distinct pleasure to announce Notre Dame as the 15th member of the Atlantic Coast Conference," said Commissioner Swofford. "The ACC was founded on the cornerstones of balancing academics, athletics, and integrity, and the addition of Notre Dame only strengthens this long-standing commitment that this league has."
"The University of Notre Dame is extraordinarily proud to join this great athletic conference composed of such outstanding institutions of higher education," added Father John Jenkins of Notre Dame.
"At Notre Dame, athletics are important in themselves, and also through our history have also allowed us to enrich the institution as a whole. Our partnership with the superb institutions of the ACC will enhance greatly the University of Notre Dame, and Notre Dame is fully committed to enhancing the ACC and its member institutions."
The setup appears to be a win-win on a lot of levels, as the ACC expands its footprint and adds one of the nation's high-profile athletic programs to improve the league's competitiveness in men's and women's basketball, as well as the non-revenue sports.
"In terms of athletics, the Irish have marquee programs that boast great tradition and great success," said Swofford.
"Sports has always played a very specific role at Notre Dame. It has two functions. One is to contribute to the education of students, and the other is to promote the University. This partnership helps us do both every effectively," added Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick.
"I think unquestionably in a host of sports, this is the best athletic conference in the country, and we will only make it better in that regard."
"This is the story of moving to something great---not away from something. We are very thankful for the opportunity to have been a member of the Big East. We will continue to be a committed member during the remainder of our stay, and it has been a good home for us. But for the reasons I stated, this creates a new and exciting opportunity for us to advance even further," Swarbrick continued.
"By joining such a prestigious group of Universities who share our commitment to education as an academic vehicle---not as something secondary to the mission of education, but as something core to it---we will further the education of our student-athletes."
"And by being part of a conference with such a perfect geographic fit for us, we are able to promote our University," Swarbrick continued, adding that Notre Dame will be able to be in 10 of the largest 11 cities in America with their football program in the coming years.
On the ACC side, adding Notre Dame also enhances the league's already sterling academic reputation.
"Academically Notre Dame enhances the league's unique blend of private and public institutions that are international in scope," said Swofford. "As an example, of the ACC's future 15-member league, 11 schools rank among the top 58 institutions in the recent 2013 U.S. News and World Report survey of America's Best Colleges. That is more than any other conference also competing at the highest level athletically."
While football still has some uncertainties, clearly this arrangement makes perfect since for the Fighting Irish in basketball and its Olympic sports.
Irish head men's basketball coach Mike Brey was on hand at Wednesday's press conference.
"Their (our coaches') reaction is very positive. Coach Brey, our head basketball coach, is very familiar with this part of the world," said Swarbrick.
A native of Hyattsville (Md.) who grew up around the Maryland program in the Lefty Driesell era and spent eight seasons as an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Brey is particularly eager to join the ACC and take on his old boss each year.
"That (going against Coach K) will be fun. I'll look forward to it. He's a good friend. We stay in close touch. That's an exciting challenge to come back and play at Duke and here in Chapel Hill, and it will be nice to get them at our place because we win a lot of games at home. It will be good to get them up our way."
"For me it kind of touches down deep I grew up an ACC guy. I grew up going to Maryland's camp and going to Maryland games, and eight years living in Durham (as an assistant coach at Duke). So I've always followed the league closely. Maybe I've come full-circle here for the stretch run," Brey added.
Brey heavily recruits Washington D.C. for the Fighting Irish, and he's looking forward to building annual rivalries with the likes of Duke and North Carolina on the hardwood.
"The folks here in Chapel Hill and Duke and the rest of the ACC coming through the Joyce Center, I think that's really great for our program," Brey said.
He added a bit of a warning to those southern programs making their way to South Bend in the dead of midwestern winter.
"It's really cold up there in the winter. You've got to let all those people know we don't shovel the snow, so when you come on up, we're going to make it uncomfortable for you," he said.
Adding Notre Dame sets the stage for the ACC to be even more prolific in men's basketball along with the recent additions of hardwood heavyweights Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
And now it's hard to argue that the ACC isn't clearly the strongest basketball conference in America, both in the men's and women's game.
"The depth in this league, I'm thrilled now that we're in it because you want to be part of the NCAA Tournament. If you can get half your league in---which this league is probably going to start pointing towards---then you've got a pretty good coaching job," Brey said.
"When you look at it, this is now the deepest league. It's the one that's really going to be watched, and for us to be part of that, it's great for our program."