News first broke back in November that James Madison would be leaving the ranks of the FCS to join the Sun Belt and on Wednesday the school made it official. The Dukes announced via press conference that they will begin competition in their new conference this season.
The typically two-year reclassification process will be sped up by the fact that JMU has successfully compiled a schedule that features four Sun Belt home games as well as a season opener against Middle Tennessee. The Dukes will kick off the 2022 season in Harrisonburg, VA against the Blue Raiders in what will be the first ever home game against an FBS opponent in program history. JMU is reportedly dolling out $700,000 for Middle Tennessee to make the trip on September 3. Weber State was originally supposed to be James Madison's opponent that date.
Despite now being an official member of the league, the Dukes will not be eligible to compete for a Sun Belt title nor will they be able to attain bowl eligibility in the upcoming season, a common first-year stipulation while programs are transitioning.
James Madison has experienced its fair share of on-field success as a member of the FCS. The program consistently found itself in the playoffs and won two national championships at that level. They are coming off a 12-2 season in which they reached the national semifinals. The Dukes also had an average attendance of nearly 20,000 last season which was good for third best in the FCS.
James Madison is set to compete in the Sun Belt’s East Division alongside Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, and Troy. The West Division consists of Arkansas State, Louisiana, South Alabama, Texas State, and ULM.
JMU leaves behind the Colonial Athletic Association and are one of three schools planning to jump up to the FBS level alongside Sam Houston and Jacksonville State.
"We look forward to JMU competing as a full member of the Sun Belt Conference beginning July 1, 2022,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill. "I want to thank JMU President Jonathan Alger and Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne for positioning themselves so well to allow for such a quick transition."
"JMU is ecstatic to be joining the Sun Belt Conference, and it’s a win-win for everyone involved that this transition will take place this July,” added James Madison AD Jeff Bourne.