Unbeaten James Madison football delivers letter to NCAA seeking reversal of two-year bowl eligibility ban

The James Madison football program is making a pitch to play in the postseason. The Dukes are undefeated and sit in the top spot of their division within the Sun Belt conference. 

But, the issue at hand centers around the team’s bowl eligibility. James Madison is in the midst of its second season within the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, which is the highest level of college football. Therefore, the team is not eligible to play in the Sun Belt championship game, despite their impressive regular season record.

On Tuesday, school officials delivered a letter to the NCAA requesting fully postseason eligibility for the football team.


James Madison Dukes helmets on the sideline

A general view of James Madison Dukes helmets on the sideline during the first half of the NCAA Division I FCS Football Championship Quarterfinal game between the James Madison Dukes and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Bridgeforth Stadium on May 2, 2021 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Copies of the letter posted to social media showed that James Madison argued that the Dukes would have a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl if the team finished with a 12-0 record.

“The membership recognizes postseason participation as a fundamental element of the student-athlete experience,” the letter stated.


“If relief is provided, our student-athletes would potentially have the rare opportunity to participate in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl contest,” the letter continued.

“Our team includes cohorts of students who have been through COVID disruptions, missed out on earned opportunities last year, and face uncertain prospects for postseason play again this year despite their sustained excellence.”

The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl are the FBS bowl games that make up the New Year’s Six bowls.

Curt Cignetti in 2022

Head coach Curt Cignetti of the James Madison Dukes stands with his team during a first quarter timeout against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Boone, North Carolina. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

James Madison has not been included in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s weekly rankings since the team is not bowl eligible. 

The team that ends the year as the top-ranked program from a Group of Five school receives an automatic bid to play in a New Year’s Six game. 

This is not the first attempt James Madison has made to become postseason eligible. But, all previous tries have been denied. 

NCAA rules require James Madison to forgo bowl eligibility for its first two years at the FBS level. The Dukes made the leap from the FCS to the FBS ahead of the 2022 season.

Jordan McCloud throws a pass

James Madison quarterback Jordan McCloud (2) throws a pass against Utah State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Logan, Utah.  (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP)

The Dukes finished last season with an 8-3 record. The school applied for a waiver, which if granted would have made the football team eligible for the postseason.

Last month, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares wrote the NCAA a letter pleading the school’s case. Miyares is a James Madison alum.

Teams have to win six games in order to be bowel eligible. There are currently 41 bowl games scheduled for the end of the season, which would put 82 teams up against each other. But, there will likely be a shortage of teams with enough wins to qualify for all the bowls this year.


If there are bowl game vacancies, James Madison will likely be one of the schools at the top of the list to fill an empty spot. Jacksonville State could also be a bowl game fill-in candidate. The team currently has seven wins and is playing its first year at the FBS level.

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