James Madison and Jacksonville State are officially ineligible to play in conference title games.
The NCAA denied a waiver request from the two schools to play for a conference championship and be fully bowl-eligible this season. James Madison is in its second season at the top level of college football while Jacksonville State is in its first year.
NCAA rules prohibit postseason games for the first two seasons a team is at the top level of college football. Teams that make the move have to complete an NCAA checklist within their transition period to meet the requirements of college football’s top level and both James Madison and Jacksonville State moved to college football’s top level knowing about the two-year postseason ban.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the outcome of the NCAA’s review of our request for bowl relief,” James Madison said in a statement. “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.”
But the success of both teams in 2023 is a big reason why the schools pushed to play in the postseason. James Madison is 10-0 this season and 6-0 in the Sun Belt. If the Dukes were eligible to play in the Sun Belt title game, they’d clinch the East Division title with a win over Appalachian State in Week 12 after hosting ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday morning.
Jacksonville State is a half-game out of second place in Conference USA and could have played for the title with wins over Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State to end the season. Instead, NMSU clinched a spot in the CUSA title game against Liberty with its win over Western Kentucky in Week 11.
Though the ruling also makes James Madison and Jacksonville State ineligible for bowl games, it’s highly likely they will get bowl invites. With 82 spots available and 58 bowl-eligible teams with six wins or more heading into the final two weeks of the season, it’s unlikely there will be enough six-win teams to fill all the bowl spots. If and when there aren’t enough six-win teams, James Madison and Jacksonville State are eligible for postseason selection before any 5-7 teams to fill out the bowl field.
James Madison’s push for an NCAA waiver has been much more public than Jacksonville State’s and its previous attempt at getting a waiver this spring was denied.
JMU wrote the NCAA a letter a week ago noting that it could be considered for New Year’s Six bowl selection if it was fully postseason eligible. Even if the Dukes finish the season at 12-0 with wins over App State and Coastal Carolina to end the season, the school can’t be considered for a New Year’s Six game because it’s ineligible to be ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee.