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History Lesson: ACC Roots Run Deep

Sep 12, 2012, 8:11 PM EDT

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Photo by Sara D. Davis (theACC.com)

While Notre Dame might not leave the BIG EAST Conference until the 2015-16 season, looking at the current Fighting Irish coaching staff reveals many ties to the university’s future home – the Atlantic Coast Conference.

From Mike Brey to Tim Welsh, several Notre Dame head coaches got their start in ACC programs. Here’s a closer look:

  • Before taking over as the men’s basketball coach at Delaware in 1995, Brey served as an assistant at Duke from 1987-95.
  • Alongside Brey on the Irish bench, assistant coaches Rod Balanis and Anthony Solomon spent their collegiate playing days at Georgia Tech and Virginia, respectively. While with the Yellow Jackets, Balanis earned Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll recognition. Meanwhile, Solomon was an assistant at his alma mater from 1994-98, before moving on to Clemson, where he was the Tigers’ assistant athletic director for basketball operations and later, assistant coach for a brief time, before coming to Notre Dame in 2000.
  • Mik Aoki spent seven seasons at Boston College, including four as the Eagles’ head baseball coach.
  • Kevin Corrigan, the Irish men’s lacrosse coach since 1988, is a graduate of Virginia, where he played three seasons as a midfielder. He returned to Charlottesville as an assistant coach, before taking over the program at Notre Dame.
  • On the women’s lacrosse side, second-year head coach Christine Halfpenny is also an ACC graduate. While studying health and physical education at Virginia Tech, Halfpenny was a four-year letterwinner and two-time member of the athletic director’s honor roll. She later returned to Blacksburg, Va. as an assistant coach, before spending three seasons as an assistant at Duke.
  • Women’s cross country coach Tim Connelly (’83) served as an assistant coach at Syracuse, before he returned to Notre Dame in 1988. (Syracuse will join the ACC, along with Pittsburgh, on July 1, 2013).
  • Like Connelly, long time Irish men’s swimming head coach Tim Welsh spent some time in central New York. He was an assistant with the Orange from 1974-77.
  • Men’s golf coach Jim Kubinski was as an assistant coach at Duke from 2003-04.

Aside from the connections between our current coaches and ACC universities, there are numerous other ties between Notre Dame and its new conference home. In 1987, Gene Corrigan left his post as athletic director to take over as the ACC commissioner, a position he held for a decade. In 2005, Notre Dame provost and history professor Nathan O. Hatch was appointed the 13th president of Wake Forest University. Dr. Hatch spoke at this afternoon’s press conference at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Whenever Notre Dame begins play in the ACC, whether that’s in 2015-16 or perhaps sometimes sooner, the Fighting Irish will face their share of new challenges in one of college athletics’ most competitive conferences. Geographically, Indiana is out in left field, but given the number of coaches who launched their careers in ACC territory, expect some of the Irish to feel right at home on the east coast.

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