James Madison Dukes making move to FBS, joining Sun Belt Conference

It was announced that James Madison had accepted an invitation from the Sun Belt Conference.
JMU, a FCS powerhouse, won the 2016 national title and has made two appearances in the title-games. After this season, JMU will transition to the FBS for a two-year period. JMU will join the Sun Belt no later that July 1, 2023.

Keith Gill, Sun Belt Conference commissioner, said that James Madison University is a joy to welcome to the conference. "This is a great move that brings another brand and passionate fan base to the Sun Belt, and elevates the Dukes' legendary football program to the highest level NCAA competition. Thank you to Jonathan Alger, JMU president, and Jeff Bourne, athletics director, for leading this effort. I look forward to continuing to work closely with them in the future."

With the addition of the Dukes, the Sun Belt now has 16 members. The Dukes join Appalachian State (Little Rock), Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern), Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Troy. They also join the ULM, South Alabama and Texas State as well as new members Southern Miss and Marshall who joined the Sun Belt last Wednesday.

James Madison, a former member of Colonial Athletic Conference will compete in the Sun Belt in every sport. The Dukes are involved in 18 varsity sports.

Jonathan Alger, president of JMU, stated that admission to the Sun Belt Conference is an appropriate and complementary step as James Madison University seeks national recognition for its academic programs and excellence. We are delighted to have been invited into this conference. It offers a unique opportunity for high-level competition in the eastern region. As a university, we have always tried to be fair to our students, faculty, staff, and student-athletes. Now is the right time for JMU to enter the Sun Belt at the highest level of D-I athletics. This is a historic moment for JMU. I am grateful to the hard work and dedication of many behind the scenes who have helped us reach this important milestone.

James Madison chose to move to the Sun Belt Conference, despite being warned by Colonial Athletic Association that it would be banned from participating in CAA championships.

According to the CAA, the Dukes have resigned from the CAA effective June 30, 2022.

"JMU has been a great member of CAA Football, and has brought a lot of recognition to the conference. "We understand their desire for the FBS level, and we wish them well in that pursuit," Joe D'Antonio, CAA commissioner, said in Saturday's statement.

Alger and Bourne stated that the CAA's decision not to allow the Dukes to compete for league championships in other sports was "completely contrary" to student-athlete welfare ideals.

"We tried to appeal to the league's council presidents with sincere heartfeltness, but it was denied. The statement stated that eight other Division I conferences also have full members who have publicly announced their exit, but all eight allow student-athletes from those institutions to continue competing in championships."

D'Antonio stated that the decision was in accordance with the league's bylaws, which JMU officials claim are out of date.

"The CAA is the only one who has this obsolete bylaw to their knowledge. JMU has tried to be a good friend of the CAA and treat other institutions the way they would like to be treated. However, that ideal is not being repaid," the statement stated.

Two-time Football Championship Subdivision champions, the Dukes will be allowed to represent the league in the playoffs. This is because there are different bylaws that govern the sport and the league doesn't play a championship match.

D'Antonio noted Thursday that the league had the same restrictions against Old Dominion as Georgia State when they left the league in 2013.

JMU was originally scheduled to host the CAA championships for women's soccer, men's basketball and softball. However, the league stated that it would work with its members to find new venues.

Since the Dukes won two Football Championship Subdivision national championships, and were regulars at the top of the FCS polls, the departure of the Dukes from the Football Bowl Subdivision was anticipated for many years. Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Virginia was also expanded to accommodate 25,000 football fans.

This report used information from The Associated Press