Photo courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin (This content was originally published in our newsletter)
JMU’s dream – I tweeted the other day, after the American Athletic Conference announced a TV deal, that the AAC would be a dream destination for JMU athletics. Between the increased competition, national recognition and TV deal, it’s hard to think of any negatives (maybe travel, losing in-state rivalries) for JMU if the school did join the AAC.
So, JMU should just join, right? – Well, that’s not how this works. JMU needs an invitation to join the conference, and depending on who you ask, that’s not realistic.
Settle down there, Kevin – We aren’t sure if Kevin went to Virginia Tech or if he just hates letting people dream, but he was very firm in his stance that JMU has no case to join the AAC. Instead, the Dukes would join Conference USA. He’s not completely wrong. It’s questionable to think that JMU would receive an invite to the AAC directly from the CAA, but the path Lawrence mentioned with JMU moving from the CAA to C-USA to the AAC isn’t that far-fetched. I’m not sure how far-fetched it is to think JMU could make the leap directly to the AAC, either.
On-field success – JMU men’s basketball is arguably the school’s weakest program, especially of the major sports. With that being said, the Dukes beat the AAC’s East Carolina 73-72 on a Stuckey Mosley buzzer beater earlier this season. JMU softball beat ECU 3-1 earlier this season, and JMU football beat the Pirates 34-14 two seasons ago. All of these wins came at ECU.
While I’m cherry picking a few results, JMU’s athletic programs are good enough to move to the AAC. The school has fantastic facilities, a large athletic budget and an extremely passionate and growing fan base. It would be a major step to join the AAC, and I’m not sure it will ever happen, but I think Kevin’s tweet lacks a comprehensive understanding of JMU’s athletic programs. I don’t say that offensively, but I doubt he’s familiar with the school’s overall budget, facilities, fan base and the state of every athletic program.
Do football and men’s basketball carry more value, especially monetary value, than other sports? Yes, but I can’t see the AAC being upset about adding a strong women’s basketball program, two great soccer squads, an elite softball team and the defending women’s lacrosse national champions to their conference. With the Union Bank & Trust Center on the way, JMU is a more enticing candidate to larger conferences. Don’t completely discredit JMU’s ability to make a big leap.