HARRISONBURG, Va. – With more of an emphasis on the health and safety and student-athletes, personnel and campus environment, James Madison Athletics has announced the suspension of competition for all Fall sport programs. The suspension was made in coordination with other Colonial Athletic Association institutions that were previously still pursuing fall competition: College of Charleston, Elon and UNCW.
The Colonial Athletic Association announced the suspension of football on July 17, but left the door open for institutions to compete independent of league play. JMU initially elected to proceed with carrying out a plan to return-to-play in alignment with the NCAA championship calendar.
The NCAA Board of Governors issued updated guidance on August 5, including 1) measures for each division to make its own decisions on championships, 2) criteria for at least 50 percent of eligible institutions to compete in order to sponsor a championship, 3) no definitive decision on fall sport championships until August 21 and 4) establishing rigid return-to-sport medical protocol.
Statement from Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne:
From the onset, we stressed JMU’s preference to align with the NCAA’s championship calendar so long as medical and safety guidelines indicated that games would be possible. Our first priority has always been the health and well-being of everyone involved, while offering championship opportunities for our student-athletes within those parameters. As the national picture came into focus over the last week, it became clear that Fall competition would not be possible.
As a result of the NCAA’s guidance and decisions made by other conferences as the week progressed, multiple sports fell below the NCAA’s 50 percent threshold, while others may also be in jeopardy. Unfortunately, the NCAA left the door open for different scenarios where some championships may be possible while others are not. This made our evaluation process extremely complicated and difficult. Ultimately, we did not want to leave our sports in an on-going state of limbo, and our preference has always been for departmental operations to be aligned across all 18 programs.
As the NCAA issued updates to its return-to-sport requirements for sport competition, the expectations for testing and other necessary procedures kept increasing. JMU was prepared to meet these expectations, but at the same time, the cost was going to place a significant financial burden on the department. We anticipated that other peer institutions would also struggle with these costs, and that it would be extremely challenging to build competitive schedules across each of our sport programs as a result. We determined it was not prudent to continue operating in a continual uphill battle.
Finally, we also recognized that the situation had been placing our student-athletes in the difficult position of making independent decisions for their personal safety balanced with managing their NCAA eligibility. We wanted to assuage that burden and remove some of the uncertainty.