JMU: Football Won't Drive Future Conference Affiliation

By: Daren Stoltzfus Email
By: Daren Stoltzfus Email

On the heels of Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University leaving the Colonial Athletic Association, James Madison University made one thing clear: no single sport will drive JMU's future athletic conference affiliation.

Despite multiple avenues of attempted contact, Athletic Director Jeff Bourne was not available for comment to WHSV, however, JMU Senior Director of Communications Don Egle spoke on behalf of Madison as a whole.

"JMU has a very strong track record of remaining committed to its entire athletics program," said Egle. "When you start talking about decisions made by VCU, they specifically stated basketball, ODU was specifically talking football, that's not something JMU has done."

It's something JMU has not done, but it is something a vocal component of Madison's fan base is clamoring for. At least some of JMU Nation want the Dukes to be an FBS level program, but at this point, it's not something the administration is focused on.

"We're very committed to being the best at where we are," said Egle. "Let's go win some multiple championships, let's go do those things. That's where our commitment lies."

VCU's move to the Atlantic 10 brought along all sports, but primarily came about to raise the competition level and public exposure for their men's basketball team.

Old Dominion's all sports move to the Conference USA allows the Monarchs' football program to compete in the highest classification of NCAA football after just three years at the Division 1 FCS level. ODU will now play one final season of FCS football, before beginning the transition to bowl eligibility that will finalize in 2015.

"We're just not going to make decisions based on one sport," said Egle. "We have many sports, not just basketball and football and I think that's some of what's being lost in the public discussion."

In a statement released by the university (not a statement from the athletics program), JMU praised the CAA for its commitment to success in multiple sports, while also championing academic excellence. In both the statement and Egle's responses, three universities within the CAA were mentioned by name.

"There are numerous examples of CAA schools whose values closely align with those of JMU. This list includes, among others, such institutions as William & Mary, Delaware and George Mason," read the statement. "These are schools with which we choose to be aligned because they share our commitment to academics and excellence in all sports, not just one or two."

So for now, JMU standing by the CAA or at least the ideals the conference represents, but as for the ideal future of JMU athletics, the university left plenty of wiggle room.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people with opinions on what that looks like, but I'm not sure at this point in the process that JMU has a position on that," said Egle. "I would speak to what's driving James Madison University."

And despite public pressure, unless their stance changes, football and men's basketball won't drive James Madison University's future in athletic associations.


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