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Although North Carolina did not have a major-league professional sports franchise until the 1980s, the state has long been known as a hotbed of college basketball. Since the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1953, the conference’s North Carolina member schools have excelled in conference play.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Duke University, and North Carolina State University are all located within 25 miles (40 km) of one another, creating fierce rivalries. Wake Forest University, another ACC member, is located less than 100 miles (160 km) to the west of these schools in Winston-Salem. UNC has won five NCAA national championships in basketball: 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, and 2009. Duke has won three NCAA championships: 1991, 1992, and 2001. NC State has won two: 1974 and 1983. The Duke-UNC basketball rivalry has been called one of the best rivalries in sports and the two schools are often contenders for the national title. In addition to the ACC schools, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte went to the NCAA’s Final Four in 1977, and Davidson College near Charlotte went to the NCAA’s “Elite Eight” in 1968, 1969, and 2008. In 2007 Barton College in Wilson won the NCAA Division II championship in men’s basketball.

Although basketball remains the dominant college sport in North Carolina, several schools have also enjoyed success in football and other sports. In 2005, 2006, and 2007 Appalachian State University won the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision championship; they are the first university to win the Division I Football Championship Subdivision championship three times in a row. Wake Forest University has also enjoyed substantial success in football; in 2007 they won the ACC football championship and participated in the 2007 Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. This was the first major bowl berth for a North Carolina-based team since Duke defeated Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl (game).

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