At least one college football team will be competing in its new conference in 2022
James Madison, a FCS power that is making the move to the FBS ranks, will compete in the Sun Belt this coming season
For much of the fall, conference realignment was a constantly evolving conversation.
Once news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, domino after domino fell.
BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF left the American Athletic Conference (independence in BYU’s case) for the Big 12. Six Conference USA schools then made the move to the AAC. After that, both the Sun Belt and C-USA added additional teams to their ranks.
As interesting as all the movement was, none of it was expected to have an immediate impact on competition. Actual realignment was expected take place years in the future, the earliest being 2023.
The future, however, was closer than previously thought.
Former FCS powerhouse James Madison will officially transition to the FBS level on July 1, and the Dukes will compete in the Sun Belt during the 2022-23 season.
Multiple outlets first reported the news Wednesday morning, and then the school officially announced it.
“JMU is ecstatic to be joining the Sun Belt Conference, and it’s a win-win for everyone involved that this transition will take place this July,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said in a news release.
“Each of our sports will be a great fit for the Sun Belt and bring value to the conference while also being positioned to be successful from day one. I’d like to thank Keith Gill, the rest of the Sun Belt staff, and the member institution presidents and athletic directors for their hard work to make this happen.”
James Madison went 12-2 last fall in its final FCS season and advanced to the national semifinals for the fifth time in the last six years.
The Dukes are an impressive 33-5 in three seasons under head coach Curt Cignetti.
The Dukes’ early transition to the FBS level gives the Sun Belt 11 teams currently, including Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy.
Additionally, there is a reported expectation that Southern Miss, Marshall, and Old Dominion will also begin Sun Belt competition this upcoming college football season.
“It’s not finalized just yet, but that’s something we’re anticipating,” Bryan Maggard, Louisiana’s athletic director, told ESPN.
Currently, Texas and Oklahoma are expected to join the SEC ahead of the 2025 season, while BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are slated to join the Big 12 ahead of the 2023 season.
The six departing Conference USA teams, meanwhile, are believed to be eyeing 2023 as they transition to the AAC.