Dear NCAA: Let James Madison play in a bowl game

The biggest story in college football is a sign-stealing scandal, but the players at JMU are the ones who are getting cheated

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It costs nothing to be kind. The NCAA is cruel for free.

Despite all that’s going on in college football right now, one of the most interesting stories has been about a team that most fans don’t know about, or what’s happening to them. James Madison is 10-0 and currently ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Poll, but unless something drastic happens there’s a chance you won’t see one of the best teams in the country play in one of the 983 million upcoming bowl games because the folks in Indianapolis are always fixated on the letter of the law when they should be focused on the spirit of it, or vice versa.

We never know what we’re going to get from them.

“Requirements for members transitioning into FBS are based on factors beyond athletics performance,” the Division I Board of Directors Administrative Committee said in a statement.


JMU is in the process of transitioning from an FCS program to the FBS level. Part of that includes not being allowed to participate in postseason play for two years — JMU tried to get it cut down to one. But, as usual, the NCAA gon’ NCAA, saying:

“They are intended to ensure schools are properly evaluating their long-term sustainability in the subdivision. Sponsoring sports at this level requires increased scholarships, expanded athletics compliance efforts, and additional academic and mental health support for student-athletes, and the transition period is intended to give members time to adjust to those increased requirements to position student-athletes at those schools for long-term success.”


Due to their status, JMU can’t be in the College Football Playoffs Rankings. However, they’re higher than programs like Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Oklahoma State in the AP, which sounds like a school that is “properly evaluating their long-term sustainability in the subdivision.”


“We’re obviously disappointed in the outcome of the NCAA’s review of our request for bowl relief,” JMU said in a statement, as ESPN College Gameday will be broadcasting from their campus on Saturday. “We’re saddened for our university community and, in particular, we’re devastated for our football program, the coaches, and student-athletes who have orchestrated an amazing season and earned the opportunity.”


Because of the NCAA’s inability to be human, JMU’s players will be the ones affected the most. Revenue isn’t the only thing that bowl games bring in, as exposure is also important as it helps with recruiting. It also gives teams more practice time, which helps with player development. The “swag bags” the players get are the least important thing about bowl games, despite the absurd costs that some of them are valued at. According to a report from Front Office Sports, the NCAA limits the gifts players can get for making it to a bowl game to $950.

As we’re in the midst of the NCAA’s investigation into Michigan, and waiting to see what will happen in court on Friday to determine if the courts will allow Jim Harbaugh to coach the last two games of the regular season before he returns for the postseason, the cloud over the Wolverines and the Big Ten has been the biggest story in college football. JMU could have been a positive one in a year full of ups and downs. And it’s not like the bowl system is one built on purity and holiness, especially if you put any worth in the rumors that the Peach Bowl had interest in Colorado earlier in the season — before the Buffaloes got exposed.


If enough FBS teams can’t win six games to fill the requirements that are needed for 82 programs to play in the 41 bowl games on the schedule then James Madison might have a chance to get selected. But if that’s the case, their postseason aspirations will be based on other teams losing all because the NCAA is too focused on the rules to champion their winning.


The NCAA says their mission is to, “provide a world-class athletics and academic experience for student-athletes that fosters lifelong well-being.” The NCAA decided to keep a team on a 13-game winning streak that the media thinks is the 18th-best team in the country from playing in their first bowl game in program history. That mission statement should be burned.