I was browsing in the back of a store a few months ago when a guy in his mid-20s rounded the corner. Noticing the JMU Purple Out shirt, a classic staple of Dukes’ closets everywhere, he yelled throughout the store “J-M-U!”

I responded with a guttural “… Dukesssssss.”

People around the store looked at us to figure out what on Earth we were doing, but they will never get it. It’s a JMU thing.

First-years, there’s a lot of stuff around here that you may find confusing. We were all new once. So whether you’re brand new or just need a refresher, here’s a crash course on JMU athletics.

We like football. It’s kind of a big deal around here. In fact, if you’ve never found yourself around Colonial Athletic Association football, did you know that the CAA is often referred to as the Southeastern Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision? In season, the only thing stronger than our love of JMU football is our hatred of Richmond. Seriously, whose mascot is a freaking spider?

Honorable mention on the naughty list? Old Dominion University. We’re still getting used to hating them and all, but last year’s loss in Norfolk sure did a lot to speed things up a bit.

Anyway, when you go to football games, be sure to stand up and be loud. I’m not talking moderate yelling either. If you don’t lose your voice, you weren’t loud enough.

Last but not least, don’t bring your parents to the student section on family weekend. Don’t get me wrong, we all love your mom. Yes, I’m sure she makes great potato salad and puts on the greatest tailgate in the valley. But if she’s not standing up and being loud, she’s wasting space in the most important section in the stadium. Family Weekend happens to be JMU taking on the defending CAA champion Towson Tigers, so we need as many loud voices as we can cram into the student section. Loud moms are, of course, welcome in my section.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to support all your school’s teams. Try new things, even if it’s a sport you’ve never watched before.

JMU women’s basketball made it to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament finals last season, and as someone who went to all the preceding tournament games, let me tell you — they were some of the best athletic events I’d ever been to over the last three years. 

Don’t let anything prevent you from going to the men’s games either. Coach Matt Brady is in the final year of his contract and needs your support. So put down the controller — “Call of Duty” will be there when you get back. At the game, get those hands up. It’s OK to be obnoxious when you’re in the MADhouse. If you’re not annoying people near you, turn it up a notch. Just be sure to respect the Convo staff, because they work hard to make an awesome game atmosphere for everyone. 

While you’re enjoying the trials and tribulations of the hard court, don’t forget to stand up until that elusive first bucket is scored. I’ve seen games where the crowd stands for the first five minutes; I’ve seen people sit after about eight seconds. Just go with it.

While you’re in the Convocation Center, don’t forget that the pep band owns Convo. I remember last year when the Dukes got in a battle royale of sorts with the University of Virginia’s travel band. The Cavaliers’ efforts were admirable, but nobody can touch JMU’s rendition of “Start Wearing Purple.” 

You’re going to see a lot of traditions, and it may take you a while to remember them all. But you’ll figure them out, and soon, newcomers will look to you for advice on what to do after that first down. And if you’re friends at other schools shake their heads at our strange traditions, just look them in the eye and explain: J-M- you wish you were a Duke dog.


Contact Chase Kiddy at kiddyca@dukes.jmu.edu.