UConn’s upcoming departure from the AAC is not expected to set off another massive round of conference realignment in college football but there’s the potential for the reverberations to include a bit of lower level realignment.
While we’ve been set with 130 FBS teams for the past few years, James Madison is apparently not so subtly hinting that they could be No. 131 if AAC commish Mike Aresco is interested in adding a full member with much more football success than the Huskies have had of late.
In a column from the Fargo Forum (home to the other major FCS gridiron power), local writer Mike McFeely noted that he asked about JMU moving to the AAC last year and got a cheeky response from the school president and athletic director hinting there would be interest in just such a move.
Officially, JMU is in a wait-and-see mode. It’s a safe bet the school has already made it known they’d be interested in replacing UConn. On last October’s visit, some boosters in Harrisonburg said they believed the athletic administration had been calling the AAC just to let the league know JMU would like to join if the opportunity became available.
Asked via email for a response to UConn leaving, a Dukes athletic spokesman replied: “JMU Athletics has been fortunate to enjoy success across a wide span of sports in recent years with competitive excellence in the Colonial Athletic Association and at a national level while continuing to emphasize a holistic student-athlete experience. Our outlook on conference membership has not changed with recent events this summer. We have not received an invitation from another conference. Should an invitation be received, we will evaluate it according to key criteria and make the best decision for James Madison University.”
Interestingly, it seems only the AAC is enough of a carrot to get JMU to jump up a level as McFeely received indications that other leagues like CUSA or the Sun Belt wouldn’t be enough to get the school to move to FBS.
While several reports have the American staying put at 11 football programs going forward, there’s still been talk of adding somebody like BYU as a football-only member. The Dukes could be an option for a full membership given they’re more in line with the AAC geographically.
As UConn has come to find out though, being particularly choosy when it comes to realignment does have its drawbacks.