James Madison to begin play in Sun Belt Conference in 2022

By Kevin Kelley -

The James Madison Dukes will begin play in the Sun Belt Conference in 2022, it was officially announced on Wednesday.

James Madison announced last November that they were moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and would begin play in the Sun Belt Conference no later than July 1, 2023. The Dukes will make the transition one year earlier than expected and the move will now become official on July 1, 2022.

“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,” JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. “Each of our sports will be a great fit for the Sun Belt and bring value to the conference while also being positioned to be successful from day one. I’d like to thank Keith Gill, the rest of the Sun Belt staff, and the member institution presidents and athletic directors for their hard work to make this happen.”

James Madison will now play a full FBS schedule in 2022. On Tuesday, the school announced the addition of a home game against Middle Tennessee to their schedule. The game will be the season-opener for both schools on Saturday, Sept. 3. The Dukes also have non-conference games scheduled at home against Norfolk State on Sept. 10 and at Louisville on Nov. 5.

James Madison will be placed in the Sun Belt’s East Division along with Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, and Troy. The West Division currently includes Arkansas State, Louisiana, South Alabama, Texas State, and ULM.

Marshall, Old Dominion, and Southern Miss are also joining the Sun Belt Conference and those moves will likely become official for the 2023 season. Marshall and Old Dominion will be in the East Division, while Southern Miss will be placed in the West. Troy will then be moved to the West to balance each division at seven teams.

“We look forward to JMU competing as a full member of the Sun Belt Conference beginning July 1, 2022,” said SBC 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. None of this could be possible without tremendous leadership and preparation. I’d also like to thank our current member institution presidents and athletic directors for helping make this transition for JMU take place a year ahead of schedule. We certainly appreciate the collaborative process.”

James Madison will not be eligible for the Sun Belt football championship or a postseason bowl game for the 2022 season due to their status as a reclassifying institution.

Future James Madison Football Schedules

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Strictly speaking, JMU can get into a bowl, but only after all the 6-6 teams who had a non-countable FCS win *and* all 6-7 fill in slots that need filled. Then they (and any other FCS-to-FBS transition team) would be next in line, followed by 5-7 teams. Not all that likely, but theoretically possible.