The NCAA denies James Madison’s latest request for postseason eligibility

The postseason hopes of James Madison’s undefeated football team took a major hit Wednesday when the NCAA denied the school’s latest waiver request.

With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Dukes are 10-0 and the decision by college football’s governing body has closed the most direct path to a berth in the Sun Belt Conference championship game and a chance at the prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game. However, if JMU receives help from several other Football Bowl Subdivision teams, Harrisonburg, Virginia, the school could still qualify for a lower-level bowl game.

Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares (R) pledged, according to a spokeswoman, to “consider all legal options to support the JMU community and the future of its student-athletes.” In a statement Wednesday to The Washington Post, spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita called Miyares “disappointed” by the NCAA’s refusal to grant JMU postseason eligibility despite the team’s “undefeated record and historic season.”

Due to an NCAA rule intended to carefully structure programs in the lower-level Football Championship subdivision plan for possible promotion to FBS, programs making such a transition are subject to a two-year postseason ban. JMU is moving to the FBS for a second year, but it argues that it deserves an exemption due to the quality of its program, which is clearly reflected in the unprecedented success it has enjoyed in its inaugural season in the Sun Belt. This year’s performance earned the Dukes 18th place in the latest Associated Press national rankings vote.

“We are obviously disappointed with the outcome of the NCAA’s review of our bowl waiver request” – JMU athletics department – she said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are saddened by our university community and especially devastated by our football program, coaches and student-athletes who put together an incredible season and deserved this opportunity.”

Noting that ESPN’s “College GameDay” pregame show will air Saturday from the JMU campus ahead of its home game against Appalachian State, JMU said in a statement: “As we turn the page … we are focused on maximizing these moments for our university and celebrating our class older.”

The university had previously asked to lift the postseason ban, but in April a request for the NCAA to shorten the transition period to one season was denied.

IN letter sent this month by JMU officials to the chairman of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, noted that as of April, the NCAA had finalized new FBS membership requirements that are scheduled to go into effect in 2027. Officials, including JMU president Jonathan Alger and athletic director Jeff Bourne they argued that because their school “currently meets the updated requirements,” an immediate waiver is “warranted.”

The UJZ authorities also drew attention to the “issue of the student-athlete’s well-being.”

“Artificial denial of such [postseason] opportunities that would otherwise be gained in the field,” they wrote in the letter, “is clearly detrimental to the mental health and well-being of our students. Moreover, this denial worsens the financial prospects and career opportunities of our student-athletes.”

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The Division I board’s administrative committee said Wednesday it stands by the decision made by the D-I Council’s coordinating committee, informed by two other committees made up of representatives from NCAA schools and conferences, to “refuse to waive the reclassification requirements.”

“Requirements for members transitioning to FBS are based on factors beyond athletic performance. “They are intended to ensure that schools properly evaluate their long-term sustainability in the district,” the board committee said in a statement. “Sponsorship of sports at this level requires increased scholarships, increased athletics compliance efforts, and additional academic and mental health support for student-athletes, and the transition period is intended to allow members time to adjust to these increased demands to ensure students -athletes position themselves at these levels for schools to achieve long-term success.”

“Moreover,” the committee continued, “there is already a non-waiver pathway for both James Madison and Jacksonville State to access bowl games if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams at the end of the regular season.”

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Jacksonville State noticed, too hope receiving a postseason waiver from the NCAA has been discontinued. The Gamecocks (7-3) are in the first year of their transition to the FBS, playing in Conference USA. A third team, FCS Tarleton State, was also reportedly denied waivers.

To be eligible for bowl play, per NCAA rules, non-transition FBS programs must finish the season with a .500 (i.e. 6-6) or better record against FBS opponents and no more than one qualified FCS opponent. If an insufficient number of programs meet this criterion, subject to certain specific exceptions (such as a defeat by a .500 team in the conference championship game), a program in the final year of the transition period may become bowl eligible as an “alternate.”

The NCAA needs 82 teams to fill 41 FBS bowl games. With most programs having one or two games remaining in the regular season, 58 qualified for bowl play and 34 at least seven defeats, pushing them behind JMU for possible consideration. That leaves 36 programs, at least in theory, able to meet the threshold required to take one of the 24 remaining bowl spots. If 13 of those teams fail, JMU could revive its cup hopes.

The NCAA’s decision will almost certainly deprive the Dukes of a chance to play in one of the high-profile New Year’s Six Bowl games that set the stage for the four-team College Football Playoff. To qualify, JMU would need an opt-out on Wednesday, as well as likely wins in its final two games and the Sun Belt title game, as well as a loss for Tulane. The Green Wave (9-1), ranked 17th nationally and 24th in the CFP rankings, is in pole position in the race to capture one spot in the New Year’s Six reserved for the top team among the “Group of Five” conferences.

According to the school, the Dukes are the first program in the two-year transition period to defeat at least nine FBS opponents in a season. Last year, it was the first program in the first year of the transformation to be included in the AP poll.


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