One of the Colonial Athletic Association’s top schools may not be able to compete for conference titles this year.
The conference on Wednesday told James Madison — one of the nation’s top programs in women’s lacrosse and FCS football, among other sports — it will not be able to compete for CAA titles if the school moves to join the Sun Belt or any other conference, as has been previously reported.
Sources: The Sun Belt is examining expansion. The league is considering adding up to four schools. Among those targeted are Southern Miss, Marshall, ODU and James Madison. Also, Conference USA is exploring additions. Those include Liberty and James Madison.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) October 20, 2021
The school was already approved to move up from the FCS to the FBS level late last week.
Breaking: JMU’s BOV has approved its move from the FCS to the FBS and pursue membership into the Sun Belt Conference.
Next step is for JMU to present its plan to the state.
— Greg Madia (@GregMadia) October 29, 2021
The CAA had different plans for one of its preeminent and most successful members.
JMU informed its athletes tonight that the CAA will not allow its teams to compete for league championships this year if it announces its move to the Sun Belt.
JMU’s appeal to league presidents was denied.https://t.co/o7swzHI4h1
— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) November 4, 2021
“As we head into a potentially monumental week for the future of James Madison University and our intercollegiate athletics program, we were extremely disappointed to be informed by the Colonial Athletic Association that, should the university accept an invitation to another conference, JMU student-athletes would not be allowed to compete for postseason conference team championships and, therefore, for the opportunity to earn NCAA automatic team qualification,” the school said in a joint statement from President Jonathan Alger and athletic director Jeff Bourne.
The CAA’s decision was met with near-universal disdain:
Embarrassing. JMU has the strongest student athletes I’ve ever met and for the CAA to not let us compete is not only embarrassing but a disservice to the quality of the championship. If you are going to win, win against the best the conference has to offer, no matter the school. https://t.co/51jWW8Fhpa
— kate owens (@KateOwensss) November 4, 2021
This isn’t the first time the CAA has enforced the rule with an outgoing conference member. It did the same to Old Dominion in 2013 when the Monarchs left the CAA for Conference USA. The conference even conceded the rule was overly punitive, but will still enforce it.
“We have great respect for JMU as a conference,” CAA commissioner Joe Dantonio said in a statement. “I’ll be honest. It’s not my job to determine whether it makes sense or doesn’t make sense. It’s my job to make sure the bylaws are enforced the way they’re written.”
Apart from threatening to take away JMU’s ability to compete for conference championships — or claim the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth — the CAA also threatened JMU’s hosting privileges for the league’s conference tournaments in men’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball and softball.
The Dukes have been one of the CAA’s most successful programs. The women’s lacrosse program has 16 NCAA tournament berths with a national title in 2018; the football program has seven straight FCS playoff berths and two national titles; and the men’s basketball program won the CAA regular season title last season.