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Tobacco Road refers to the tobacco-producing area of North Carolina and is often used when referring to sports (particularly basketball) played among rival North Carolina universities. The phrase actually originated as the title of a novel set in Georgia, but it naturally migrated to North Carolina because of the state's primacy in tobacco production.
The usual universities referred to by the moniker "Tobacco Road" are the following:
- Duke University (Blue Devils), located in Durham, North Carolina
- North Carolina State University (Wolfpack), located in Raleigh, North Carolina
- University of North Carolina (Tar Heels), located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Wake Forest University (Demon Deacons), located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Three of the schools (Duke, UNC, and NC State) are part of Research Triangle and are separated by no more than 25 miles (40 km) and Wake Forest lies about 100 miles (160 km) west of the other three. It was formerly much closer to the other three, having originally been located in the town of Wake Forest, North Carolina until 1956. All four are no more than 6 miles (9.7 km) from Interstate 40; the road is sometimes informally known as the "Tobacco Road". The proximity of these schools to one another and the membership of each school in the Atlantic Coast Conference have created a natural rivalry among students and alumni.
These four universities are also known in the state as the "Big Four" and competed in the Dixie Classic tournament from 1949 to 1961 and the Big Four Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 1971 to 1981. The four schools have had quite a bit of success in college basketball. As of the 2011-12 season, the four schools have a combined eleven national championships (UNC has 5, Duke has 4, NC State has 2, and Wake Forest has 0). At least one Tobacco Road team has made the NCAA Tournament since 1974. And since the NCAA Tounament started in 1939, all four teams have missed the same tournament only eleven times. The years in which none of the teams were in the tournament was 1940, 1942-1945, 1947-1949, 1958, 1971, and 1973.
North Carolina State University's Red and White Song mentions each of the four universities in its lyrics.
- Wake-Carolina rivalry
- Carolina-Duke rivalry
- Carolina-NC State rivalry
- Tobacco Road, a song written in 1960 by John D. Loudermilk
- U.S. Highway 15 and U.S. Highway 501 in North Carolina