Warren Belin

Inside linebackers coach Warren Belin was named interim head coach as the university begins its permanent search.

Just a day after former JMU head coach Mike Houston informed his team that he’d be leaving the program for East Carolina, JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne met with media to address Houston’s departure and the ongoing search for JMU’s next head coach.

“As we all know, in this world of sport, when you’re at the FCS level [and] when FBS institutions come calling, especially when you’ve had prominence and success, you’re going to have a hard time holding a good coach,” Bourne said. “And that’s what happened to us.”

In his press conference, Bourne revealed that JMU inside linebackers coach Warren Belin would serve as interim head coach. Belin, who joined the Dukes in February 2018, has 25 years of experience at the Division-I level and two years in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.

“It’s nice to have a coach with presence, who the young men admire and respect,” Bourne said. “This is not his first rodeo, he’s been through this before. He’s done a really good job of communication, and right now this is a communication job. I feel extremely comfortable with him and the support that he’s going to yield these next couple of weeks for us.”

Regarding more long-term fixes, Bourne also discussed that the university has already begun its process of finding the eighth head coach in school history. Teaming up with Parker Executive Search, a search consultant firm based in Atlanta, the Dukes are acting quickly to put a new name on the door of the head coach’s office. Along with them is the JMU committee of Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance Charlie King and NCAA faculty representative Roger Soenksen.

“The benefit of hiring a consultant is that it’s going to enable us to move forward in a much more expeditious and quick manner,” Bourne said. “The heart of good decisions is based on your committee. Our finalist will be interviewed by our president, and we expect to make a decision in the near future.”

There are only 16 days until the early national signing period begins Dec. 19, and the current staff has put forward a quick approach to ensuring the potential recruiting class of 2019 is in open communication with the university. Belin and his staff will hit the road starting Wednesday to meet and speak with the list of verbal commits.

“[Cornerbacks] coach [Corico] Wright and I, we’re dedicated to getting that done,” Belin said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to try to secure as many of these guys or all of these guys that we can. I know there are some vultures out there already trying to get some of our guys, but my job … is to get in contact with them as quick as I can and that will start as soon as I get back to the office.”

Despite the fact that Houston has left the program and a new era will be instilled at Bridgeforth Stadium, Bourne and his administration have made it clear to the class of 2019 that they’re more than welcome to stay at JMU.

“We’re going to obviously want to be on top of every recruit that we’ve got committed to us and we want to make sure that they all end up at JMU,” Bourne said. “I think we’d all be naive if we didn’t say that date is somewhat lingering out there somewhere in the background, and we want to be able to give some assurance to your recruits.”

The 2019 class of verbal commits had planned to join a team with Houston at its helm. With the national-champion head coach now out the door, selling JMU is the goal to retain the class.

“James Madison is a great university,” Belin said. “It’s a great, great university with great people and great administration that supports our student-athletes. We have the ability to continue the tradition that coach Houston and his staff has built. The standard is the standard, and we are not going to change from that standard.”

Contact Blake Pace at breezesports@gmail.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.