WHSV Sports Presents: State of JMU Athletics

Published: Jul. 1, 2019 at 4:06 PM EDT
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The James Madison athletics program put together another strong performance during the 2018-2019 school year and expectations are high again for the Dukes entering the 2019-2020 campaign.

JMU posted a .668 winning percentage across all sports this past year, the second-highest mark for the Dukes since 1982. In the process, JMU won five CAA tournament titles (softball, women's tennis, men's soccer, women's lacrosse, women's swimming & diving).

"I think anytime you can compile a group of coaches and student-athletes and a staff that share in common values and they create the culture that we have here, it tells us how special JMU really is," said James Madison Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne.

New era of JMU Football

The 2019-2020 school year signals a time of transition for James Madison football. The nationally prominent program will have a new head coach on sidelines this fall as Curt Cignetti takes over for Mike Houston, who left for the same position at East Carolina University.

Cignetti joins JMU from CAA rival Elon and expectations remain high for the Dukes in 2019. JMU is considered to be a contender for the FCS national title.

"I am extremely encouraged, having gotten to know this staff and Coach Cignetti, to see what they do this year," said Bourne. "I think we can continue to vie at the national level."

The Dukes open the 2019 campaign Saturday, August 31 at West Virginia.

Men's Basketball seeks improvement

While many teams at JMU have enjoyed great success over the past few years, the men's basketball program is struggled.

The Dukes are led by head coach Louis Rowe who is entering his fourth season at the helm. In his tenure JMU has posted a 34-64 overall record but the program showed signs of progress during the 2018-2019 campaign with regular season wins over Radford, Charleston, and Hofstra to go along with a thrilling victory over Towson in the CAA Tournament.

"We have, I think the fundamental foundation to a really good basketball team," said Bourne. "We have to compliment that with a few additional student-athletes and those games last year that we lost by narrow margins, we need to win this year.

"If we do that we are going to be well on our way to where we need to be."

New arena on the horizon for Men's & Women's Basketball

The 2019-2020 season will be the final one in the Convocation Center for the JMU men's and women's basketball teams. Construction continues on the new Atlantic Union Bank Center which is scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2020-2021 season.

"The magnitude, the depth, and the experience that that's going to offer to the fans is phenomenal," said Bourne. "For us, it's a game-changing type of facility."

You can read more about the Atlantic Union Bank Center

Expectations remain high for Dukes in 2019-2020

As the Dukes prepare for another school year of athletic competition, expectations remain high from both fans and administration. Some even believe the upcoming school year could go down as one of the best in JMU history.

"I think (2018-2019) can be one our best seasons and I know we say that every year but it literally can be one of our best seasons," said Bourne. "To be in a position where you can say that year in and year out puts you in elite company in the country, so it's a great time to be at JMU."