Syracuse University Magazine

Welcome to the ACC

Welcome to the ACC


Make way for Tobacco Road, Tiger Paws, and the Ramblin’ Wreck as the Orange enters a new era in its intercollegiate athletics history

 By Jay Cox


As Syracuse University heads into its inaugural year in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), it’s time to consider what’s ahead in this uncharted territory. There will be previously unexplored road trip destinations to punch into the GPS, unfamiliar fight songs, and new rivalries to fire up while dusting off some old Big East ones. It’s also worth mentioning that snow is a novelty in most of these locations.

Okay, then, Orange Nation, here we go. First off, the Huskies, Hoyas, and Scarlet Knights are out as conference colleagues. The Blue Devils, Tar Heels, and Seminoles are in. And that’s just the start of it if you’ve attempted to follow the changing landscape of college athletics the past few years. The Big East, as we knew it, is no more. Well, actually, the seven Catholic university non-football playing members kept the name, while the conference’s gridiron group became the American Athletic Conference (AAC). 

AAC now aside, here in the ACC, Syracuse is a new member along with Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (which will remain independent in football, as it did in the Big East). Louisville will be on board in 2014-15, but Maryland, an ACC original member, will head to the Big Ten then. With Maryland’s pending departure, the remaining charter members are Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest. Those schools, along with South Carolina (now a member of the Southeastern Conference), exited the Southern Conference to found the ACC in 1953.

For many college sports fans, ACC basketball has long held a powerful mystique. There’s no doubt it will be intriguing to see the Orange traveling Tobacco Road, tipping off in Carolina’s Dean Dome, and enduring the frenzy of the Cameron Crazies at Duke. Remember, Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73 earned his first trip as head coach to the NCAA Final Four, when the Orange knocked off North Carolina in the 1987 East Regional championship. And it will be history in the making when SU and Duke go at it, as Boeheim and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski are the two most winning coaches in college basketball. 

The ACC has more than its share of championship hardware in other sports as well. In lacrosse, both the Orange men’s and women’s teams have ready-built rivalries. Witness the 2013 NCAA tournaments, where Duke downed the Orange, 16-10, in the men’s final, and the North Carolina women claimed the title with a win over Maryland, which knocked off SU in the semifinals. While the SU men reign supreme in the national title count with 11, Virginia (5), Carolina (4), Maryland (2), and Duke (2) have all won multiple NCAA crowns. In women’s lacrosse, Maryland has collected 10 titles, including seven straight between 1995 and 2001. Orange women’s coach Gary Gait ’90 helped build the Maryland dynasty, serving as an assistant coach there for nine years. In the six seasons since he took over the SU program, the Orange women have turned into national contenders, advancing to the NCAA Final Four four times and the final in 2012. 

In field hockey, where the Orange women have emerged as a national power—earning two Final Four trips under Coach Ange Bradley—the ACC is a dominant force. Just consider this: ACC schools have captured 10 of the last 11 national championships—and eight of the last 10 national title games have been all-ACC finals. Maryland (8), North Carolina (6), and Wake Forest (3) have collected multiple championships. Finally, if it’s near total domination you’re looking for, get this: The North Carolina women’s soccer team has won 21 NCAA championships since 1982.    

On the gridiron, seven of the current ACC members have won national titles, not counting Notre Dame. One of the sport’s most recognizable names, John Heisman—yes, that Heisman—has history with two of the schools: Clemson and Georgia Tech. Heisman—the man who gave the game the center snap, the quarterback “hut,” and lobbied the forward pass into existence—coached at Clemson from 1900-03. In his first year, he guided the Tigers to their first undefeated season and a conference championship. In 1904, Heisman took over at Georgia Tech, where he coached for 16 seasons, leading Tech to unbeaten seasons in 1915 and 1916 and the national championship in 1917.

Heisman, a Shakespearean actor who managed a summer stock theater company, would appreciate the theatrics of today’s mascots. Otto, for instance, will make new sideline acquaintances with the likes of Georgia Tech’s Buzz the Yellow Jacket and Wake Forest’s Demon Deacon. Aside from learning the moves of a whole new set of mascots and creating new chants, Orange Nation will have to come to grips with an infiltration of other oranges. While Syracuse is the Orange, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Clemson all feature orange, or a variation, as a school color. And Clemson has what it calls Clemson Orange, which we’ll assume—rightly or wrongly—is more of a tiger orange. Look out for Clemson’s fabled Tiger Paw, too—it’s been known to appear on highways and elsewhere, including rivals’ home turf.

Syracuse, naturally, is the ACC’s northern most outpost, so many visiting football fans will appreciate a roof over their heads in the Dome, but certainly not walking to it when they meet those blustery brain-numbing winds. Of course, old Big East foes Virginia Tech and Miami are acquainted with Central New York, but let’s not forget that Boston College and Pitt don’t exactly offer hospitable climates in the late fall. Amid welcoming the return of old rivals and building new ones, it’s worth noting that SU has squared off at least once with every ACC team on the gridiron. True, SU hasn’t played Duke since the late ’30s, but the Blue Devils blistered the Orange in 1938 (21-0) and 1939 (33-6) in their only two meetings to date. When Clemson comes to the Dome on October 5, it will be only the second meeting as the Orange dropped the Tigers, 41-0, in the 1996 Gator Bowl. When Coach Scott Shafer’s Orange men visit Georgia Tech on October 19, it will be the first time the two teams haven’t met on a neutral site. And anyone headed to Atlanta should know there’s The Varsity restaurant there, which claims to be the world’s largest drive-in, serving upwards of 30,000 on a game day.

Finally, with all this in mind, if you hit the road, plan on spending a lot of drive time on Interstate 81 South. In the meantime, check out the encapsulated look at the newest version of the ACC, courtesy of Internet gleanings of the conference, the schools, and elsewhere.  «

The Orange's ACC Opponents

BC logoBoston College

Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Founded: 1863

Nickname: Eagles

Colors: Maroon and Gold

Joined the ACC: July 1, 2005

Sporting Life: The men’s ice hockey team has won NCAA titles in 1949, 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012.

Home Football Field: Alumni Stadium (capacity: 44,500)

Distance from the Dome: 308 miles

Versus SU Football: SU leads series, 28-18.

Notable Alumni: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie; Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler.

Clemson logoClemson University

Location: Clemson, South Carolina

Founded: 1889

Nickname: Tigers

Colors: Clemson Orange and Regalia

Joined the ACC: May 8, 1953

Sporting Life: William “Refrigerator” Perry, who gained fame as a member of the 1986 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, was a freshman on Clemson’s undefeated 1981 NCAA championship football team. He was joined on the 1984 team by his brother Michael Dean Perry. Each was named an ACC Player of the Year, making them the only brothers to earn that distinction.

Home Football Field: Memorial Stadium, also known as “Death Valley” (81,500)

Distance from the Dome: 858 miles

Versus SU Football: SU leads series, 1-0.

Notable Alumni: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley; former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who was the first African American student to graduate from Clemson; Entertainment Tonight host Nancy O’Dell.

Duke logoDuke University

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Founded: 1838 (as Trinity College)

Nickname: Blue Devils

Colors: Duke Blue and White

Joined the ACC: May 8, 1953

Sporting Life: Duke has won four NCAA basketball titles (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010) under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Home Football Field: Wallace Wade Stadium (33,941)

Distance from the Dome: 629 miles

Versus SU Football: Duke leads series, 2-0.

Notable Alumni: Former President Richard M. Nixon; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Melinda Gates, cofounder, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Florida StateFlorida State University

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Founded: 1851

Nickname: Seminoles

Colors: Garnet and Gold

Joined the ACC: July 1, 1991

Sporting Life: Two FSU quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy: Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000). 

Home Football Field: Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium (82,300)

Distance from the Dome: 1,234 miles

Versus SU Football: FSU leads series, 5-1.

Notable Alumni: FSU College of Music professor Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in music; Grammy Award-winning singer Rita Coolidge; actor Burt Reynolds. 

Georgia TechGeorgia Tech 

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Founded: 1885

Nicknames: Yellow Jackets, Ramblin’ Wreck

Colors: Old Gold and White

Joined the ACC: April 1, 1978

Sporting Life: Georgia Tech has been voted national champion in football four times (1917, 1928, 1952, and 1990).

Home Football Field: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field (55,000)

Distance from the Dome: 962 miles

Versus SU Football: Georgia Tech leads series, 2-0.

Notable Alumni: Golf legend Bobby Jones; Apollo 16 commander John Young, who walked on the moon; architect Michael Arad, who designed the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City.

University of Louisville logoUniversity of Louisville

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

Founded: 1798

Nickname: Cardinals

Colors: Red and Black

Joins the ACC: 2014-15 season

Sporting Life: When Louisville enters the ACC in 2014, it will be the Cardinals’ sixth conference since 1964, following membership in the Missouri Valley (1964-75), Metro (1975-95), Conference USA (1995-2005), Big East (2005-13), and American Athletic (2013-14). 

Home football Field: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000)

Distance from the Dome: 680 miles

Versus SU Football: Series tied, 5-5.

Notable Alumni: Mystery novelist Sue Grafton; Tori Murden McClure, first American and woman to row solo across the Atlantic; football legend Johnny Unitas.

University of MarylandUniversity of Maryland

Location: College Park, Maryland

Founded: 1856

Nickname: Terrapins, Terps

Colors: Red, White, Black, and Gold

Joined the ACC: May 8, 1953

Sporting Life: Maryland is one of only three major universities to have won national championships in football (1953), men’s basketball (2002), and women’s basketball (2006).

Home Football Field: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium (54,000)

Distance from the Dome: 365 miles

Versus SU Football: SU leads series, 18-14-2.

Notable Alumni: Google co-founder Sergy Brin, Muppets creator Jim Henson, CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King.

University of Miami logoUniversity of Miami

Location: Coral Gables, Florida

Founded: 1925

Nickname: Hurricanes

Colors: Orange, Green, and White 

Joined the ACC: July 1, 2004

Sporting Life: Longtime Miami women’s track and field head coach Amy Deem was the head women’s track and field coach for Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Home Football Field: Sun Life Stadium (75,000)

Distance from the Dome: 1,404 miles

Versus SU Football: Miami leads series, 15-7.

Notable Alumni: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, singer Gloria Estefan.

University of North CarolinaUniversity of North Carolina

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Founded: 1789

Nickname: Tar Heels

Colors: Carolina Blue and White

Joined the ACC: May 8, 1953

Sporting Life: Women’s soccer legend Mia Hamm was a member of four NCAA championship teams (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993), leading those Tar Heels teams to a combined 92-1-2 record. She was National Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993.

Home football Field: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000)

Distance from the Dome: 637 miles

Versus SU Football: Series is tied, 2-2.

Notable Alumni: Novelist Thomas Wolfe, basketball great Michael Jordan, comedian Lewis Black.

North Carolina State UniversityNorth Carolina State University

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Founded: 1887

Nickname: Wolfpack

Colors: Red and White

Joined the ACC: May 8, 1953

Sporting Life: The late Kay Yow, who served as the NC State women’s basketball coach from 1975-2009, is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She guided the U.S. women’s basketball team to a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

Home football Field: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583)

Distance from the Dome: 633 miles

Versus SU Football: NC State leads series, 6-0.

Notable Alumni: Basketball Hall of Famer David Thompson; Bill Cowher, TV football analyst and former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers; Katharine Stinson, first woman engineer hired by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Notre DameUniversity of Notre Dame

Location: Notre Dame, Indiana

Founded: 1842

Nickname: Fighting Irish 

Colors: Gold and Blue

Joined the ACC: July 1, 2013 (football remains independent) 

Sporting Life: Knute Rockne, the winningest coach in Notre Dame football history (105-12-5), is considered by many to be the greatest college football coach of all time. He led his alma mater to five undefeated seasons and three national championships from 1918-30. He died in a plane crash in Kansas on March 31, 1931, at age 43.

Home football Field: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795)

Distance from the Dome: 590 miles

Versus SU Football: Series is tied, 3-3.

Notable Alumni: TV personality Regis Philbin, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, author Nicholas Sparks.

University of PittsburghUniversity of Pittsburgh

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Founded: 1787

Nickname: Panthers 

Colors: Blue and Gold

Joined the ACC: July 1, 2013

Sporting Life: When Pitt, led by Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett, captured the NCAA football title in 1976, it was the first Eastern team to accomplish the feat since Syracuse won in 1959.

Home football Field: Heinz Field (65,050)

Distance from the Dome: 361 miles

Versus SU Football: Pitt leads series, 33-30-3.

Notable Alumni: Entertainer Gene Kelly; novelist Michael Chabon; 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement.

University of VirginaUniversity of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

Founded: 1819

Nickname: Cavaliers, Wahoos, ’Hoos

Colors: Orange and Blue

Joined the ACC: December 4, 1953

Sporting Life: The men’s soccer team has won five national titles, including four straight (1991-94). 

Home football Field: David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium (61,500)

Distance from the Dome: 491 miles

Versus SU Football: Series is tied, 2-2.

Notable Alumni: Actress Tina Fey, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Virginia TechVirginia Tech

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia

Founded: 1872

Nickname: Hokies

Colors: Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange

Joined the ACC: July 1, 2004

Sporting Life: Hokies football coach Frank Beamer started three years as a cornerback during his undergraduate days at Virginia Tech. He has been head coach since 1987, winning both Big East and ACC titles and guiding the Hokies to the national title game in 1999 after an undefeated regular season. 

Home football Field: Lane Stadium/Worsham Field (65,632)

Distance from the Dome: 571 miles

Versus SU Football: SU leads series, 9-8.

Notable Alumni: Jazz guitar virtuoso Charlie L. Byrd; ABC News correspondent Pierre Thomas; Betty Chao, entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Westech International Inc.

Wake Forest UniversityWake Forest University

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Founded: 1834

Nickname: Demon Deacons

Colors: Old Gold and Black

Joined the ACC: May 8, 1953

Sporting Life: The Wake Forest baseball team won the 1955 College World Series. It remains the only ACC team to have captured the national baseball championship while a member of the conference.

Home football Field: BB&T Field (31,500)

Distance from the Dome: 647 miles

Versus SU Football: Series tied, 1-1.

Notable Alumni: Golf great Arnold Palmer; Charlie Ergen, co-founder of Dish Network; NBA San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan.


ACC football teams are split into the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. Syracuse will compete in the Atlantic Division with Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest. Louisville will join the Atlantic in the 2014 season, replacing Maryland.

  • Commencement 2013
  • Encouraging Words
  • Welcome to the ACC
  • A Promise Fulfilled