The James Madison Dukes are one of the nation’s best college football programs. They’re one of the last remaining undefeated teams and at the time of messaging the NCAA, sit at 9-0 overall.
The fact that they’re in just their second season at the FBS level is astounding. But the fact that the NCAA hasn’t budged on keeping them from bowl eligibility is even more confounding.
JMU Seeks Bowl Eligibility
To combat the fact that the NCAA has denied their attempts at gaining bowl eligibility, the Dukes sent a fiery memo to the NCAA expressing just how they’ve not only met but surpassed the new guidelines set in place for FCS-to-FBS level teams in the future.
“One of the rationales offered for denial of our previous waiver centered around the Transformation Committee’s ongoing work in establishing new FBS membership requirements,” the message read. “The work of that committee has since been completed, and in August the membership adopted new FBS membership requirements that will go into effect August 1, 2027.”
“Fortunately, due to the diligence and planning of our institution, we are able to confirm that we are meeting the updated requirements now. We have met full FBS membership requirements in both years of our transition, and will continue to meet them in the future.”
JMU directed this message at NCAA President Jere Morehead and the Division I Board of Directors. DNR Sports’ Shane Mettlen confirmed that the Sun Belt joined JMU in sending memos to the NCAA.
As nice as the granting of the waiver for the Dukes to participate in a bowl game at the university level, JMU’s memo further exemplified what it would mean for the student-athletes. After all, isn’t student-athlete growth and the betterment of the young individuals who take part in our great sport what we set out to do?
“Most importantly, relief is warranted as a matter of student-athlete welfare,” JMU continued. “The membership recognizes postseason participation as a fundamental element of the student-athlete experience. If relief is provided, our student-athletes would potentially have the rare opportunity to participate in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl contest.”
“Our team includes cohorts of students who have been through COVID disruptions, missed out on earned opportunities last year, and face uncertain prospects for postseason play again this year despite their sustained excellence … The artificial denial of such opportunities, which have otherwise been earned on the field, is clearly detrimental to our students’ mental health and well-being.”
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The betterment of these JMU student-athletes would be the right thing. The right thing for the NCAA to do, and that was certainly hit on in the memo as well.
“As many commentators have noted, this is an opportunity for the NCAA to do the right thing for our student-athletes and recognize their exceptional efforts on and off the field.”
The real question continues to be whether this will work or not. It’s clear that the NCAA is a stickler for such inquiries and they are not prone to change, big or small, even if it’s the right thing to do.
Adding public pressure isn’t one to move the needle very much, especially for an institute like the NCAA. However, we can point directly to the Tez Walker situation earlier in this season as perhaps a turning of the corner from the NCAA. It was at that time that the NCAA actually showed some compassion.
And a compassionate NCAA would be good for us all.