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James Madison and Jacksonville State wind up bowl eligible after all

Two transitioning FBS teams are going bowling due to a lack of 6-win teams available.

James Madison v Coastal Carolina Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

The palpable frustration within the James Madison football program was felt throughout the administration and fanbase alike.

As the Dukes rattled off win after win, there was no reward in sight. Due to their 2022 transition from the FCS level to the FBS, James Madison was assessed a two-year bowl ban, which is the standard for teams undergoing that transition. This bowl ban was highly publicized as James Madison carried an undefeated 10-0 record into a Nov. 18 College GameDay appearance which saw 26,000 attendees and averaged 2.29 million viewers on ESPN.

Two days prior to GameDay on Nov. 16, a waiver James Madison submitted to the NCAA for an automatic bowl invitation was denied. Although the Dukes dropped their highly-anticipated game to Appalachian State in overtime fashion on Nov. 18, the call for bowl eligibility remained vociferous from all those connected with the James Madison football program.

James Madison is not eligible for the Sun Belt Championship Game after winning the East division for the second year in two seasons of FBS membership. Instead, the East division title belongs to Appalachian State, which faces Troy next Saturday for the conference championship. However, the Dukes will receive one of the many privileges they loudly fought for all season long — bowl eligibility. James Madison, sporting a stellar 11-1 record, wasn’t the only program in the compromised position of being robbed from bowl eligibility despite its win total. Jacksonville State upgraded from the FCS to Conference USA this year and was similarly blocked from the postseason despite an 8-4 overall record.

But on Saturday night, an exception to the rule denying bowl eligibility came into play. Now, both James Madison and Jacksonville State will go bowling due to a lack of eligible teams. 82 spots were available for Bowl Season, but only 79 teams attained the necessary 6-win threshold. Thus, slots 80 and 81 were presented to James Madison and Jacksonville State, solidifying the first-ever bowl appearances for two of the youngest FBS programs. The 82nd and final slot belongs to Minnesota, the 5-7 team with the highest Academic Progress Rate (APR), which is a measure of a university’s graduation and retention rates for academically eligible athletes.

Now that the accomplishment of bowl eligibility can truly be celebrated in Harrisonburg, VA and Jacksonville, AL, it’s time for these FBS newcomers to play the waiting game. James Madison and Jacksonville State will discover their first bowl destinations and opponents on Sunday, Dec. 3, earning the deserved reward for successful 2023 campaigns.