Brian O'Connor has a trip to South Bend planned for mid-October, for a reunion of Notre Dame's 2002 College World Series team. And the Virginia baseball coach says he can't wait to start visiting more often, now that the Fighting Irish are joining the ACC.
"I've got a tremendous amount of respect for the University of Notre Dame," said O'Connor, who was an assistant coach with the Fighting Irish before taking over the Virginia program. "My nine years there were very, very special and instrumental in my coaching career. I'm thrilled. I'm looking forward to sometime down the road, taking a University of Virginia team back there to South Bend."
The ACC announced on Wednesday that Notre Dame would be joining the conference in every sport but football. The Fighting Irish aren't expected to make the move from the Big East until at least the 2014-15 season.
"My initial reaction was simply, 'Wow.' That's big news, I think," said men's lacrosse coach Dom Starsia. "Across the board, in all sports, but especially in our sport. I think it's sort of dramatic in our sport, which you can clearly make the argument -- especially with the addition of Syracuse recently -- that the ACC plays the best lacrosse in the country."
Starsia's Cavaliers were eliminated by Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last spring. The Fighting Irish joined two current ACC teams -- Maryland and Duke -- in the Final Four, and Syracuse -- which will join the ACC for the 2013-14 season -- also played in the tournament.
Four of the top five teams in the final lacrosse media poll of the 2012 season -- Maryland, Notre Dame, Duke, and Virginia -- were either current or future ACC members. North Carolina and Syracuse were also in the top 15.
"This sport in particular, you're talking about the teams at the very pinnacle of the game," Starsia said. "So that's why I will tell you that even though I see it as presenting an even more challenging setup for the University of Virginia, I like it. I like being a part of it."
Football coach Mike London has been on the sideline at Notre Dame before, during his time as an assistant at Boston College.
"Some schools have an atmosphere that is special to play in. There’s no doubt Notre Dame is one of those places," London said. "We also have a little history around here, so I’m sure their fans will enjoy coming to Charlottesville and visiting the University and experiencing what Virginia is all about.
"It will be a great rivalry. We might have to call it the Gene Corrigan Bowl," London added, referring to the former ACC commissioner who served as athletic director at both Virginia and Notre Dame.
O'Connor has plenty of fond memories from his time in South Bend. It's where he married his wife, and where two of his children were born. And he grew up going to Notre Dame football games as a kid.
He got the news in an email from the ACC Wednesday morning.
"I've always had inklings over the last couple of years, when all this expansion has happened," he said. "I personally feel that the University of Notre Dame would be a great fit for our conference, and it could be a great marriage. So I was personally hoping it would happen at some point, because I think everybody benefits from this."
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