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Speculation surrounds JMU and conference realignment following Big 12 expansion

Recent expansion at the Power Five level has ramped up speculation about James Madison...
Recent expansion at the Power Five level has ramped up speculation about James Madison potentially making a move to a new conference.(WHSV)
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 3:43 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Recent expansion at the Power Five level has ramped up speculation about James Madison potentially making a move to a new conference.

The Big 12 Conference officially extended invitations to BYU, Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston on Friday. According to article from the Associated Press: “BYU said all its sports will begin Big 12 schedules in the 2023-24 athletic season. BYU is an independent in football, but competes in the West Coast Conference for basketball and its Olympic sports. UCF, Houston and Cincinnati are in the American Athletic Conference, which requires members to give 27 months’ notice if they plan to leave the league, though there could be negotiations between the schools and that league to reduce the time before beginning Big 12 play.”

With UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati moving on from the AAC, it’s believed a program like JMU could make a move from the Colonial Athletic Association and the FCS to a conference at the FBS level. WHSV reached out to administrators at James Madison for comment about potential conference realignment for the Dukes. The following statement was released from JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne and President Jonathan Alger:

“We wholeheartedly believe that James Madison University brings value to any conference as an outstanding academic institution with a broad athletics program featuring success across multiple sports. We will continue to work actively to ensure that JMU is in the best position for its future so as to continue providing the ideal experience for our student-athletes.”

The Sun Belt Conference is considered to be a potential fit for JMU, if the Dukes decided to make a move. Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill released a statement on Friday about potential conference realignment: “Throughout this process, if we identify a school that adds value to the Sun Belt, we’ll certainly consider them for membership.”

The Sun Belt Conference’s current members include: Appalachian State, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas State University, Coastal Carolina University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Louisiana Monroe, University of South Alabama, University of Texas Arlington, Texas State University, and Troy University.

Chris Vannini, a national college football reporter for The Athletic, is reporting on Twitter that JMU has “has had discussions with multiple FBS conferences.”

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