September 12, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
"GIDDY" AND "EXCITED"
Soccer coaches react to Notre Dame's move to ACC
"Giddy" and "excited" were words used by Notre Dame soccer coaches Bobby Clark and Randy Waldrum to describe the school's announced move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"You heard rumors but it hit me when (athletic director) Jack Swarbrick told the assembled head coaches today, there was a kind of giddy excitement," said Clark, who is in his 12th year directing the men's team.
The move brings all of the Fighting Irish sports programs to the ACC, with the exception of its storied football program and its hockey program. The move was made because of all the shuffling in the college football landscape recently, and while it was mainly a football related-move, the soccer teams will benefit.
"I was ecstatic when I heard it this morning," said Waldrum, the Fighting Irish's women's coach since 1999. "I've known for a while, with the whole BCS and conference realignments and football playoffs, we kind of knew this was probably coming. I didn't realize it was going to happen this soon. I think of all the conferences we could have moved to, I couldn't be happier, especially for us, selfishly in women's soccer. I mean arguably, with not much argument to be had I think, itís the best women's soccer conference in the country and we are really excited to be a part of it.
"I can't wait."
Clark says having to leave the Big East for the ACC is "bittersweet"
"The Big East has been a really good league. I think the big East is a great conference of great teams, your St. John's your Louisvilles, Connecticuts, you can go on. There's a whole pile of good teams. Even around here, Marquette is doing really well.
"I feel it's been a very good league for us, but having said that I think the ACC has certainly been the Cadillac of conferences, but I think the Big East has been very close behind it, especially in recent years. I think the Big East has done very well."
Clark says the move for men's soccer to the ACC puts it in a whole new competitive level.
"Itís a great conference, Itís a lot of storied teams in there, you look in recent years. You've got Wake Forest, Virginia of the 90s, they have been the conference that has consistently put most teams into the NCAA final four, so I think it's going to be a good conference to play in and itís going to be a challenge as well."
Of course current NCAA men's champion and perennial women's contender North Carolina is in the ACC, making the move something really special for Waldrum, who is one of the few coaches in the country to have broken the Tar Heelsí run of NCAA titles, winning in 2004 and 2010.
"I think if you look back at the last 20-25 years of women's college soccer, I think the two teams that you would think of first, would be North Carolina and Notre Dame, " said Waldrum. "So it's exciting to know that we are going to get the opportunity to play them every year because, since I've been here at Notre Dame, we've been able to for two or three years get on each other's schedules then there has been two or three years that we can't seem to get worked out and we're always trying, but we could never seem to keep it consistent so now that we are going to get to play them every year is great."
With its concentration of powerful women's teams that includes the current # 1 ranked Florida State, as well as Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest and the Tar Heels, the conference has seven of the top 15 teams in the week's NSCAA ranking.
"Clearly, itís the best conference that you could want, and I think it's only going to help us more in our recruiting," said Waldrum. "We recruit the top kids in the country anyway, but I think itís just one more thing we can point to we're playing the ACC as well. I think itís a win-win for everyone. I think itís a win for the ACC to have Notre Dame join and I think itís a win for Notre Dame to be in that conference as well."
With the announcement coming Wednesday morning, details of when the school will leave the Big East are still to be worked out, as are the logistics of how the Fighting Irish will be integrated into the soccer schedule of the growing league, which will add a pair of Big East teams, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, next year.
"How they will split that? Will it be one league, will it be two leagues?," asked Clark "We've been used to 16 teams in the Big East, so weíve had the two leagues of eight and then you had a couple of crossovers. Until you actually see all the details as to how the soccer league is going to work, then you'll get a better picture. We've been used to travelling in the Big East, so this is not something that's completely new to us. I donít think the travel will be much different. It will be very interesting to see how they sort it out."