They aren’t football players or basketball stars, but an award-winning team of an academic variety known as DICE is coming to North Carolina.

In a recruiting deal that means at least $10 million a year in research funding, UNC-Chapel Hill is luring away an entire team of cutting-edge data researchers from the University of San Diego’s Supercomputing Center.

Known as , the group will assume a variety of positions within the highly regarded As many as 10 team members, formerly known as the Data Intensive Computing Environments group, will relocate to the Triangle. Those who don’t move will work remotely. The UNC school is already ranked as the top in its field by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

UNC announced the wholesale recruitment – something rarely done in the world of higher education – on Tuesday. On Thursday, the DICE group will receive a major honor from the Society of American Archivists for its work in addressing “the challenges of managing, preserving, and providing access to electronic records.”

“We are very excited about this,” said Jose-Marie Griffiths, the School of Information and Library Science dean who is a member of the U.S. National Science Board. “This is such a bold move. These people are well known for their work. They weren’t actively looking, but we understood they might be open to a move. There was a courting period, and we found that there is a match.”

The team also is supported by a number of funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, at some $10 million a year.

By bringing the DICE team to UNC, Griffiths said the school will “achieve critical mass” in research and development of technology and software to deal with the world’s exploding amounts of digital data. As more data is produced digitally and as the process to digitize older traditional media from newspapers to pictures becomes easier and cheaper, Griffiths said archivists and librarians need more tools.

“This is a growing challenge,” she explained. “We are particularly focused on how we manage the content not just in the immediate but also in the long term.”

A 2007 study by research firm IDC documented the challenge archivists face: In 2010, IDC forecast that 988 billion gigabytes of digital information will be generated. That’s a 600 percent increase over 2006.

Two years ago, IDC noted, the accumulated total of digital data reached 161 exabytes (or 161 billion gigabytes). That’s some 3 million times more than the information in all books ever written.

DICE is involved in developing numerous open-source solutions, she added. The group has experience in networking and computing on large-scale projects such as the TeraGrid, the Biomedical Informatics Research Network and the Southern California Earthquake Center.

One set of software tools developed by DICE, called iRODS, provides users with automated management tools.

Working with existing UNC team members, Griffith said DICE would help UNC not only advance research but also attract more funding support, additional faculty and students. “We see this as a win-win in many respects,” she said.

Griffiths executed the recruitment within existing funding. “We were able to do this within our current environment,” she said.

Various UNC officials, including the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), participating in the recruiting. Among them was Alan Blatecky, RENCI’s interim director who once worked at the San Diego center.

“The DICE group has years of experience and an international reputation for developing innovative systems for managing distributed digital data,” Blatecky said. “This will be a huge advantage for Carolina as the wave of new data rapidly becomes a tsunami.”

In a statement, new UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp praised the recruitment.

"The opportunity to recruit an entire group of active researchers with an international reputation for vision, innovation and accomplishment is rare, perhaps even unprecedented, in information and library science," Thorp said. "Their work is closely aligned with the school’s efforts in the areas of digital libraries and archives, databases, institutional repositories, information retrieval and information management. Our students and many others across campus will have an extraordinary opportunity to learn from and collaborate with this world-class research team."

The DICE team leaders – Reagan Moore, Richard Marciano and Arcot Rajasekar – will become full professors at the School of Information and Library Science.