RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, especially during a heated election season — but two party leaders appear united on one front: James Madison University’s (JMU) football team should be allowed to play in a bowl game.
JMU left the FCS to join the Sun Belt Conference in the FBS, moving up to the highest tier of college football this past offseason. The university tried to shorten its transition period to the FBS from two years to one to become bowl-eligible this year by asking the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for a waiver.
The request was denied, making it unlikely for the 7-0 and No. 25-ranked Dukes to be eligible for postseason play. NCAA rules allow teams in the second year of a transition to play in a bowl game if not enough teams qualify to be eligible.
The NCAA Board of Directors’ decision to deny JMU’s request has drawn responses from Virginia lawmakers — and even a letter from Attorney General Jason Miyares urging the NCAA to reconsider. The request from Miyares, a JMU graduate, was ultimately denied.
NCAA President Charlie Baker wrote in his response to Miyares that the transition period is meant to give schools time to show they have met the requirements to become an FBS member and adjust to more requirements for student-athlete support.
“The Attorney General is disappointed with the NCAA’s response and stands by the point in his letter,” Victoria LaCivita, Miyares spokeswoman, said in a statement.
On Monday, two state lawmakers on opposite ends of the political spectrum agreed that the NCAA was setting itself up for “a very unfriendly future” from the Virginia General Assembly.
“Let me remind the @NCAA that they are required by their charter to follow state laws where they operate,” state Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), president pro tempore of the Virginia Senate, wrote on X. “If they continue to hold @JMUFootball hostage to a technical rule and stop them from competing in the postseason they will face a very unfriendly future from our legislature.”
The post from Sen. Lucas prompted a two-word response from Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) on X: “VERY unfriendly!“
Lucas then took aim at Baker: “@CharlieBakerMA Since you are new ask around about the legislative help Virginia has had to give your organization over the years. I’ve been in the Senate for 32 years and can think of a number of issues you all have needed help on. Virginia will go to war on this.”