James Madison just destroyed Georgia Southern in a 41-13 blowout victory on Saturday, bringing its record to 6-0 on the year. Under normal circumstances, the Dukes would be celebrating bowl eligibility right now, a monumental feat for a program that is brand new to FBS. And as the class of the Sun Belt, they should be in the driver’s seat to host the Sun Belt Championship Game on December 2.
And yet, Curt Cignetti’s program won’t be able to do either. All because of archaic NCAA rules.
To prevent FCS programs from hastily making a decision to move up, the NCAA has a rule where transitioning teams are unable to participate in postseason play for their first two years in FBS. That makes James Madison ineligible for postseason play despite now having a 14-3 record through a season-and-a-half at this level. They ran into this problem last year when they technically won the Sun Belt’s East division in just their first year, couldn’t compete in the conference title game. The school submitted a waiver to shorten this transition period, but it was denied by the NCAA this past April.
To deny this team a shot at the postseason is outrageous and there’s no good reason why they can’t at least appear in their own league championship game if they won their division again. JMU has proven to be an exception to this rule and its track record as a program should give it the benefit of the doubt.
Prior to the jump, the Dukes were a perennial contender in FCS and were one of the very few programs to steal a national championship during North Dakota State’s reign of dominance. Through success and facility upgrades at Bridgeforth Stadium, they long prepared themselves to make the jump before they did and have proven they can more than hang.
As Coach Cignetti said following the game, “common sense overrides all rules.” If the NCAA actually wants to follow their mantra of being “student-athlete friendly”, then should follow that common sense and let JMU compete in the postseason. Immediately.