NCAA denies James Madison’s second attempt at bowl waiver, per sources: What’s next for Dukes?

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The NCAA Division I Board Administration Committee denied James Madison’s second waiver attempt for full bowl eligibility Wednesday, a source briefed on the decision said. Here’s what you need to know:

  • James Madison is a second-year FCS-FBS transition team, meaning it is not eligible for the postseason this year, unless there aren’t enough 6-6 bowl teams.
  • Despite the denial, JMU is still likely to reach a bowl game due to a lack of enough 6-6 teams.
  • After going 8-3 as an FBS team last year, JMU submitted a waiver to request its transition be one year instead of the NCAA-manded two years. It was denied in the spring.
  • This year’s JMU team is 10-0 and might be in position for the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six berth if it was fully eligible. The Dukes are not eligible for the CFP rankings nor eligible for the Sun Belt championship game, per conference policy.
  • Jacksonville State’s FBS bowl and Tarleton State’s FCS playoff waivers were also denied.

Is this a surprise?

JMU officials did not feel optimistic heading into the hearings, but they remained hopeful. JMU’s case for the waiver rested on the fact that it spent its first transition season in FBS and the Sun Belt, unlike most transitioning teams that spend the first year in FCS (as Jacksonville State and Sam Houston did).

The Dukes have also clearly proven they belong at the FBS level, with an 18-3 record since the move and an athletic budget on par with their conference peers. If there was a team worthy of a waiver, it was this one. — Chris Vannini, senior writer

Why was it denied?

More than anything else, the NCAA committees and other schools didn’t want to create a precedent, especially after denying it in the spring. The rules are the rules. JMU acknowledged it knew the rules when it made the move, and did so again when the waiver was denied the first time.

These classification rules have come up frequently in basketball. Fairleigh Dickinson only upset No. 1 seed Purdue in this past spring’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament because Northeast Conference champion Merrimack was not eligible for the tournament as a transitioning Division II school. That jump is a four-year process.

This also comes at a time when FBS requirements are getting stricter. Last month, the Division I Council changed the FBS requirements, removing the attendance requirement but adding a $5 million application fee (up from $5,000) and placing stricter scholarship usage requirements. FBS will grow to 134 teams next year with the addition of Kennesaw State. More guardrails are going up, and allowing a school to bypass part of the rules doesn’t fit with where the winds are blowing. — Vannini

Why does the two-year process exist?

It’s twofold. One reason is to allow transitioning teams time to invest and reach the various scholarship requirements at the higher level. JMU had already done this. The second reason is as a deterrent, a cost to making any move within a classification or division. The additional FBS costs mentioned above are also going into place. — Vannini

What’s next?

JMU hosts College GameDay this Saturday, and you can be sure the show will be filled with anger directed toward the NCAA, now on the scale of ESPN’s premiere pregame show. I imagine Pat McAfee will have a few choice things to say about it.

The Dukes also host Appalachian State and play at Coastal Carolina next week. Both App and Coastal are in the race to fill the Sun Belt East spot for which JMU is not eligible. It’s possible we could get JMU and Liberty matched up in a bowl game, potentially both as undefeated. This week’s The Athletic bowl projections have JMU versus Toledo in the Cure Bowl.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has already lobbied for the Dukes once, sending a letter to NCAA president Charlie Barker that was largely dismissed. It’s possible Miyares and other state politicians who have referenced the cause could create another push.

If JMU runs the table, there will likely be a swell of fan support to declare itself a national champion, as UCF did in 2017. If you go undefeated, I’ve got no problem with that. — Vannini

Required reading

(Photo: Lee Coleman / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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