JMU Football 101: Five Fun Facts To Know

All photos in the story are courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

JMU football has very deep roots.

The Dukes have experienced immense amounts of change in the 52 years of the program’s existence. From Division III to the FBS, James Madison has seen it all. JMU’s home at Bridgeforth holds many incredible memories along this journey.

As I was reflecting on JMU’s incredible program I started to do some research and discovered very interesting stats and facts. So let’s take a ride down JMU football’s history and share some fun facts about the Dukes that you may or may not know. 

Curt Cignetti receiving Gatorade shower

Sustained success 

The Dukes have been on a rampage during the past two decades. This program has put together winning season after winning season.

JMU football has not had a losing season since 2002.

The run JMU has been on is remarkable considering the program has been through four different coaches and three different conferences during this time. These tenures include stints under Mickey Matthews, Everett Withers, Mike Houston, and Curt Cignetti.

Ravenel royalty

The Dukes have family ties all across the program.

The Tucker-Dorsey’s, Saratt’s, and Ravenel’s are among the families with multiple members to dawn the purple and gold in recent years. These brothers all made impacts in their special ways, but Brandon and Devin Ravenel share a special record at JMU.

In 2019 vs. Morgan St. Devin Ravenel caught a receiving touchdown and took a kick to the house in the same game. The last person in program history to achieve that feat in the same game was his brother Brandon in 2016 vs. New Hampshire. No JMU player has accomplished this since.   

Climbing the ladder

JMU has not taken a traditional path to the FBS in the slightest. Starting as an all-women’s teaching school can lead to a slight delay in football development, but by 1972 JMU President Ronald Carrier decided that a football team would be good for campus morale.

Starting in DIII football JMU eventually moved up to D2 in the mid 1970’s and then to D1-AA in 1980. JMU then stayed there for almost 40 years and became a national powerhouse.

Having earned two National Championships at the FCS/ D1-AA level, James Madison had several opportunities to join FBS conferences spanning back to the early 2010s. However, Jeff Bourne’s patience led to a perfect opportunity.

On Nov. 6, 2021, JMU announced it had accepted an invitation to join the FBS through the SBC. The only two teams to play all 4 levels of NCAA intercollegiate football (DIII-FBS) are the JMU Dukes and the UCF Knights.

2022 transition dominance

JMU made a statement in the SBC this past fall.

Finishing 8-3 (6-2 in SBC play), being ranked in the AP Top 25, crowning themselves “The Kings of East,” as well as many more accomplishments made that 2022 campaign extraordinary. The consistency in which JMU operated as well as the increased fan support were the most exciting parts to me.

By the end of the 2022 season, only one team ranked in the top three in both yards per game and yards allowed per game in the Sun Belt. That team was JMU. The Dukes ranked third in total offensive yards per game and first in yards allowed per game last fall.

JMU also broke a Bridgeforth Stadium attendance record in 2022. On Homecoming weekend playing against Marshall, James Madison suffered a 26-12 loss in front of a monstrous crowd of  26,159. That record may be broken again this fall when JMU hosts either App State, ODU, or South Alabama.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

JMU football has gotten some criticism in recent years for being too “safe” when it comes to jersey selection. This concern has been heard (and ignored) by head coach Curt Cignetti.

However, JMU has a bit of a history when it comes to keeping parts of the uniform the same. In particular, JMU’s helmets hold plenty of similarities throughout the eras of JMU Football. Gold helmets have been a staple of the JMU uniform arsenal. In fact, from 1985-2011 the same gold helmet was used for every game. 

You can find a full history of JMU helmets here.

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