How JMU Football’s 2024 Commits are Reacting to Curt Cignetti’s Departure

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Ben Hofer

Amidst the whirlwind of emotions and breaking news that Dukes fans have come to expect as the norm, it’s time to talk about the 2024 recruiting class. There are 19 days until the early signing period begins, and since Curt Cignetti’s departure for Indiana, only one player has decommitted.

Jah Jah Boyd, the lone decommit, also happens to be the highest-ranked recruit not only in this class, but in JMU football history. However, there is more to the story and not all hope is lost for this extremely important class.

Let’s start from the beginning, as the situation has moved extremely fast.

Athletic department addresses departure

Soon after the news of Coach Cignetti’s departure surfaced on Thursday, Boyd announced that he was decommitting from JMU and that his recruitment was 100% open. Although he added that “JMU is still a top option for me as I go through this process.”

Many players say this when they decommit to appease the fanbase, but the timing of his tweet and what I’m about to outline, make this quote reassuring and I believe truthful. A handful of hours later at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Athletic Director Jeff Bourne, as well as a handful of recruiting personnel, hosted a Zoom call with every recruit. This includes the aforementioned Boyd, which gives an indication that he is at least still interested in JMU. 

The meeting began with Bourne impressing upon recruits that JMU has gone through this process before, and while he did not give a concrete plan or any potential candidates, he reassured the recruits and their parents that a hire would be imminent. The recruits were also informed that offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan as well as defensive coordinator Bryant Haines would both be leaving the program for Indiana.

Many of the recruits had relationships with the OC or DC and hoped that one of the two would be promoted to head coach. However, from the timing and language of the Zoom call, it seems like as soon as Cignetti was hired, they were already offered positions at Indiana.

Current status of the 2024 class

This leads us to Friday, the only player who has decommitted is still Boyd. Others have expressed online that they are confused, anxious, or upset in the past 24 hours. Some have also updated their senior season highlights, or positioned themselves in a way to be contacted by other coaches to test the waters. JMU’s recruits have been contacted by coaches almost from the moment the Cignetti news dropped, which is normal.

These young men had their college plan completely flipped on its head in the last 24 hours or so, and some of the players were preparing to sign their letter of intent to play at JMU and enroll early in January. It is only fair to them and their parents to have a backup plan in place.

Here is the good news for JMU fans: from the recruits I have spoken to they’re somewhat disheartened, but still committed to JMU for the short term. Most are waiting anxiously to see who Jeff Bourne hires as Cignetti’s replacement, and to hear if their scholarship will be honored by the new staff. It seems likely that every scholarship will be honored, seeing as this is the best recruiting class in school history, but also because it is extremely difficult to find a new class by signing day.

Others have expressed a renewed commitment to the program, and others still will not focus on making a decision until their high school season has concluded. Bottom line is they’re waiting for answers. Bourne told the local media on Thursday that JMU would work swiftly to make a new hire.

This class is extremely important for the future of JMU, especially with the recent exodus of players into the portal, including standouts like quarterback Jordan McCloud and linebackers Aiden Fisher and Jailin Walker.

2024 recruits could provide much needed depth or contend for starting spots next year. The situation is fluid following a coaching change and it is absolutely not a clear-cut situation, but the class seems has survived the initial shock of the Cignetti announcement.

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