Conversations regarding JMU Athletics and possible conference realignment have heated up over the last week. Scenarios about the Dukes moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) were first reported by Yahoo! Sports, and Friday. Yet JMU Athletics spokesperson Kevin Warner didn’t offer any specifics, instead only saying to The Breeze that the program’s focus remains on its athletes and the athletic experience.
“We’ve stated previously that we genuinely believe James Madison University brings value to any conference, and we’re seeing that play out with the interest being expressed in our institution,” Warner sent to The Breeze via text message. “Strategic vision and investment over a long period of time have put JMU in an attractive position as it relates to all aspects of the institution. Our process [has] been very thorough, and we will continue to respect that process of review as it relates to university and commonwealth protocol. Our focus remains on providing the ideal overall experience for our student-athletes.”
On Thursday, JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne spoke to the media during a basketball media day, addressing conference realignment. Bourne didn’t comment on any specific scenario, but Yahoo! Sports listed JMU as a target for the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.
The Sun Belt conference, run by commissioner Keith Gill, spans from the Carolinas to Texas. Right now, the teams are:
On Friday, CBS Sports reported that the Sun Belt will invite Marshall, Southern Miss, Old Dominion and James Madison to potentially join as soon as next week.
Something to note: The conference doesn’t have varsity or scholarship opportunities for men’s soccer, field hockey, women's lacrosse or swim & dive teams.
Bourne emphasized stability and regional rivalries as factors in a potential move for the Dukes during the media day presentation. The Sun Belt has a media rights deal in place until 2030-31 to provide stability and entrance to the conference. Regional rivalries potentially match the Dukes up with Old Dominion and Appalachian State. JMU men’s basketball head coach Mark Byington also coached at a Sun Belt school, Georgia Southern, for seven seasons.
According to the Daily News-Record, CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio said JMU hasn’t given its notice to leave as of Friday afternoon. It costs $1 million to exit the CAA and another $250,000 to leave CAA football.
JMU has to get through the state level before accepting an invitation. To move divisions in Virginia, public schools must seek state approval through the General Assembly. The JMU Board of Visitors must approve the move first before that can take place.
Contact Savannah Reger at email@example.com. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.