RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — James Madison University held a press conference on Saturday after officially accepting an invitation to the Sun Belt Conference on Friday afternoon.
The press conference was held at JMU’s recently built 8,500, $100-million-plus Atlantic Union Bank Center, just hours before the Dukes’ homecoming football game against Campbell University. JMU President Jonathan Alger, JMU Athletic Director Jeff Bourne and Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill all shared how thrilled they were with the jump to the Sun Belt.
On Friday, JMU’s long-awaited transition to FBS football was finally greenlit by the Virginia General Assembly’s Intercollegiate Athletics Review Commission, allowing the Dukes to move to the Sun Belt Conference. JMU accepted the invitation just hours after the commission’s unanimous vote.
The commission’s vote was the last hurdle JMU needed to clear before it could leave for college football’s premier division. State law requires the General Assembly to sign off before four-year colleges change from one level to another, and state officials wanted to make sure JMU was ready financially.
The move from FCS and the Colonial Athletic Association is widely viewed as a major win for JMU, an elite FCS program that had been waiting for the right opportunity to move up.
With this latest round of conference realignment (starting with Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC), the Sun Belt presented a best-case scenario for JMU and other schools, with regional rivalries against Old Dominion, Appalachian State, Marshall, Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State. That projected eastern division is expected to be one of the toughest in college football, and give the Dukes an opportunity for exciting and competitive games weekly during the regular season.