Coaches react to conference change
Andrew Gastelum and Mike Monaco | Wednesday, September 12, 2012
With the move to the ACC, Irish coach Randy Waldrum won’t have to go out of his way anymore to schedule Notre Dame’s powerhouse rival North Carolina. The Tar Heels have won 20 national championships, including five victories over the Irish in the College Cup final. But Notre Dame got its revenge in 2010, upsetting the heavily-favored Tar Heels in the round of 16 en route to a national championship.
“I’m ecstatic,” Waldrum said. “It’s the best conference in the country for women’s soccer, and the fact that, probably the two best programs in the history of women’s soccer, us and North Carolina, are going to get a chance to play each and every year is great for women’s soccer.”
Waldrum said the move also brings a recruiting edge to the Irish, who brought in the nation’s top recruiting class in 2012.
“Playing in this conference is only going to help us with those very, very top players who want to not only go to a good school with good academics and a good program, but they also want to play against the best competition,” he said.”
In his 14th season as Irish head coach, Waldrum said the impact will be felt well beyond just women’s soccer.
“Of any conference we could have chosen to go to this is the one I was hoping for,” Waldrum said. “I can’t say enough how proud and happy I am. Hats off to Jack [Swarbrick] for pulling this one off – an absolute coup for all our Olympic sports.”
The Irish will enter arguably the most storied conference in lacrosse history, as Notre Dame will join the likes of North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, Maryland and, eventually, Syracuse in the ACC.
Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said he is very excited to enter the conference for both its scheduling and recruiting impacts.
“It means we’re going to be in the single best conference in college lacrosse,” Corrigan said in a statement. “It’s huge from a scheduling standpoint, from a competitive standpoint and from a recruiting standpoint. It’s a tremendously competitive league and a very exciting league to be a part of.”
Virginia has won five national championships, North Carolina has won four, Maryland has won two and appeared in nine other title games, and Duke has won one title in three tries.
Syracuse, which will join the ACC in July 2013, leads all Division I NCAA men’s lacrosse programs with 10 national championships.
Notre Dame will be joining a conference that, between those five teams, boasts 22 of the 41 national championship trophies. Corrigan, who led Notre Dame to a Final Four appearance last year, said the Irish hope to reach their objective of winning a national title of their own.
“Our goal in recruiting, scheduling and everything else has been towards trying to win a national championship and that’s not going to change,” Corrigan said. “Is it going to be a great challenge year in and year out to play the schedule of the ACC? Of course it is. But it’s the challenge we relish and are looking forward to. I couldn’t be more excited about all the possibilities of this move.
In the summer of 2010, Irish coach Mik Aoki left the ACC and his head coaching position of four years at Boston College to head to the Big East and Notre Dame. Just over two years later, Aoki was told he would be moving back to the conference he calls the best in America for baseball.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “The ACC is one of the true power conferences in baseball. In the past decade, there have been a number of times where they are in the top two or three in RPI in the country. It’s also a message to the kids that they will be able to compete academically at Notre Dame and compete athletically in the best baseball conference in America.”
Aoki led the Eagles to their first NCAA regional appearance in 42 years in 2009 and took Boston College to its first two ACC tournaments in 2009 and 2010. He said there is a simply a different vibe when it comes to ACC baseball.
“The biggest impact it has is in terms of speaking for the baseball athletes’ overall experience. The level of competition in the ACC is in the upper tier of college baseball. On the road it is going to be abundantly clear that baseball is important to these universities and to the athletic department.
“And from a recruiting standpoint it helps as well. Notre Dame gets you in the door as far as academics go. But joining the ACC allows us to have a marriage of two great brands, two very powerful brands.”
After over 11 seasons in the Big East Conference in which his teams averaged over 12 wins per season, Irish coach Bobby Clark said he has mixed emotions regarding Notre Dame’s move to the ACC.
“It’s hard obviously,” Clark said. “It’s a bittersweet situation. The Big East has been a really good soccer conference in this country and we’ve made a lot of friends in a very competitive conference. Having said that, the ACC has been the Cadillac of soccer conferences in the U.S., although [the Big East] has pushed it recently.”
While he said he will miss the Big East, Clark said he thinks the move to the ACC is a good one overall for Notre Dame.
“I think it’s a good move for possibly all our sports,” Clark said. “[The ACC] is a very good athletic conference and it’s a good fit academically for Notre Dame as well. There are a lot of positives.”
As for recruiting, Clark said the Irish have always been able to allure top talent, but joining the ACC definitely will not hurt them.
“I think we’ve always been able to recruit, but it’s certainly not a negative because the ACC is the top conference in the country,” Clark said. “We’ve always argued that. I think Notre Dame has been able to compete well with any team in the conference. [Notre Dame] is a special brand. It doesn’t matter even if we’re independent.”
Clark said all things considered, he is excited for the future of Notre Dame athletics, especially men’s soccer.
“Overall this is exciting news for men’s soccer and for college sports in general,” Clark said.