Cunningham Talks ND Addition

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham discussed Notre Dame's move to the ACC following the league's press conference on Wednesday.

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Given your ties to Notre Dame, were you more involved with the discussions and this whole process than the other athletic directors?
"No, I don't think so. I think the commissioner and the presidents just did a remarkable job of keeping us informed and making the relationships and connections with Notre Dame and then presenting information to us."

Is this something that was ongoing when you arrived here?
"I don't know when it began. I think the discussion about what's the right fit for Notre Dame is, in the ACC discussions, probably 20 years old. So I think it's been on-and-off for probably 20 years."

How do you think Notre Dame fits in with the ACC?
"I think it's a great fit… I think the ACC being built on academics, athletics and integrity and that's what Notre Dame has built their athletic program on, so I think it's a great fit as an institution. I think competitively it's a great fit and I think there will be academic collaborations as well, which I think makes it really, really exciting for everyone."

Is this the first step for Notre Dame to join as a full member once its NBC television contract expires in three years?
"I think that same question was probably asked when they joined the Big East in all sports except football 17 years ago. So I think what they're doing is maintaining football independence, committing five games and finding a home for their Olympic sports. And I think it's good for us and I think it's good for them, but what the future looks like is anyone's guess."

When you were at Notre Dame, did you foresee a day when the school would be willing to play a quasi-conference schedule like this?
"Yeah, we talked about it a lot. We talked about it, at that time, with the ACC. Before I left, we were talking about [the] ACC and we talked about the Big East. And I think if you go back, when you look at the original Big East agreement, there were games that we were committed to play at that time. I think that's kind of dwindled over time. Now we've got this, which is a five-game commitment each year."

How does this move benefit North Carolina?
"I think having Notre Dame strengthens the overall league. I think it strengthens us from an Olympic sports standpoint. I like the idea that there will be a rotation of the schools that will go up and play in South Bend in football. I think their basketball program will enhance the basketball tournament and so, overall, I think it will be good for Carolina. I think as you add good schools, it makes everybody a little bit better."

Do you know how the schedule rotation is going to work?
"I do not and I don't know how you take into account games that are currently contracted. I know that Pitt, Syracuse and Boston College have all played and probably are likely scheduled going forward, so I don't know how that fits."

Did your ties at Notre Dame, as well as some of the other individuals involved, help ease the process?
"There are relationships and people are familiar, whether it's [athletic directors] or presidents. I think that does make the discussions a little bit easier, but fundamentally its about what's right for the institution and what's right for the conference. I think that's obviously what drove the decision-making process."

Does the extra potential travel for the non-revenue sports bother you?
"No, it doesn't. We're adding Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame. I think we'll have to take a look at some of our nonconference scheduling and make sure it fits with more of a national schedule. When you have a regional conference, you can play a national nonconference. When you have a national conference, you have to play more of a regional nonconference."

Do you think it makes sense to have a North and South Division to cut down on expenses?
"I really haven't given that enough thought. When you build a league, you want to develop rivalries. If you split the league into divisions, it's hard to build conference rivalries. You can build divisional rivalries, and long-term maybe that is the solution to these mega-leagues, but I haven't given it enough thought to give you what I think is the right answer."

When did Roy Williams find out?
"We've talked about it. This has been an ongoing dialogue, so I've talked with Roy; I've talked with Larry [Fedora]. I've talked with our coaches about these possibilities. Like with anything else, you try not to have anyone surprised when it happens."

What was Williams's reaction?
"Well, I think we've said it before. We think the ideal number for a conference is eight, but we're not putting the genie back in the bottle. If it makes our league better, then he's all for it. Anything that will make the ACC better or Carolina better, Roy's willing to support and that's the way he felt about it."

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