Tobacco Road refers to the tobacco-producing area of North Carolina and is often used when referring to sports (particularly basketball) played among rival ACC 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:
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 has been called "Tobacco Road" in national sports media. 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, fans, & alumni. The oldest of the football rivalries in the state belongs to the UNC-Wake rivalry, while the UNC-Duke rivalry is the oldest basketball rivalry in the state. The rivalries between the four schools also account for the six most frequently played basketball rivalries in the ACC.
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. The four schools have a combined eleven men's national championships (UNC has 5, Duke has 4, NC State has 2, & Wake Forest has 0) and three women's national championships (Duke has 2, UNC has 1, Wake Forest & NC State have 0). At least one Tobacco Road team has made the NCAA Tournament every time since 1974. And since the NCAA Tournament 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, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1958, 1971, & 1973. The four schools have combined to win 71 men's conference tournaments with 21 SoCon tournaments & 50 ACC tournaments (Duke won 24, UNC won 25, NC State won 17, & Wake Forest won 5). They have also dominated ACC regular season play, having won or shared 59 regular season titles between them, including all but four since 1981. The four have also won 21 ACC women's tournaments (Duke won 8, UNC won 9, NC State won 4).
Though the Tobacco Road rivalry predominately relates to basketball, football between these programs is also competitive. As of the 2013 season, the four schools have combined to appear in 77 bowl games (Duke has 10, UNC has 30, NC State has 27, Wake has 10) and a 37-39-1 record in those games (Duke won 3, UNC won 14, NC State won 14, Wake won 6). They have also won a combined 39 conference championships. Wake Forest and Duke are the only schools out of the four to appear in the ACC Championship Game since the ACC went to a divisional format in 2005. The format divided the four schools in which Wake Forest and NC State were put in the Atlantic Division, while Duke and UNC were put in the Coastal Division.Wake Forest and Duke are "permanent cross-division" rivals, meaning that thay play every year regardless of division. The same can be said about UNC and NC State. The Wake-UNC game, as well as the Duke-NC State game is played for two years then takes a three year break before playing another two years. In football the four have produced 5 player and 0 coaches in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They have also produced 15 players and 6 coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Overall, the four schools have combined to win 65 NCAA Division 1 team national championship in both men's and women's sports(Wake with 8, NC State with 4, Duke has 13, and UNC has 40). They have also won at least 61 NCAA Division 1 individual nation championships in men's and women's sports (UNC has 51, Duke has 5, Wake has 4, NC State has 1).Carolina's 40 team championships are the ninth most in Division 1 and the most in the ACC.
North Carolina State University's Red and White Song mentions each of the four universities in its lyrics.