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PULLMAN, Wash. – NCAA President Charlie Baker said he feels “bad” for the undefeated football players at James Madison University, but said it wouldn’t be fair to grant them a waiver on an NCAA rule that prevents them from being eligible to play Post season. this chapter.
“Yes, I feel bad for these kids, but I also feel bad for the kids who are playing for an eligible team and won’t make it” if JMU gets a waiver, Baker said in an interview Friday with USA TODAY Sports.
Those other eligible schools could potentially suffer damage if the Dukes (10-0) are granted a waiver to play in the postseason, Baker said. He named Liberty (10-0) and Tulane (9-1) among those who could be knocked out of the upper bowl in this case.
“It’s a zero-sum game,” Baker said Friday at Washington State University, where he was visiting. “If you put more and more in, there doesn’t seem to be room for more and more. And someone else comes out, and they’re qualified and not on probation.”
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Why aren’t the Dukes eligible to play in a bowl game?
They are in the midst of a two-year transition to college football’s lucrative Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) after moving from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), where there are fewer resources and scholarships for players. The NCAA requires that these “reclassified” teams be ineligible for the FBS postseason during this two-year period.
The Dukes are in the second year of the transition period and have requested a waiver from the NCAA but were denied. If their waiver request had been approved, they would have been included in the College Football Playoff rankings and perhaps set their sights on the elite game.
The NCAA president cites another example
Baker likened the Dukes’ case to that of Merrimack College in Massachusetts, where Baker previously served as governor. In March, Merrimack won the conference tournament title in men’s basketball but was not allowed to play in the NCAA Tournament because it was in the final year of a four-year transition from Division II to Division I. Fairleigh Dickinson represented the Northeast Conference instead. Although he lost to Merrimack 67-66.
In the case of James Madison, if the Dukes get a waiver, Baker said it wouldn’t be fair to those who might miss out on a bowl berth because of it after “playing all season with the understanding that they were playing to be in a bowl.” By contrast, James Maddison knew he wouldn’t qualify no matter how successful the season was.
Baker noted that the Dukes could still end up in a backdoor bowl game if there aren’t enough teams with a minimum 6-6 record to qualify. In that case, they would be allowed to fill an open spot as needed, likely in a lower-level bowl game rather than the type of upper bowl game they could now launch into the CFP rankings if granted a waiver.
What is the purpose of the rule?
Baker acknowledged the need to reconsider the rule. It was designed primarily to prevent teams from making a hasty move up the ladder in college sports at the expense of their teams and support staff.
The rise of players transferring freely between schools and other big changes that have occurred recently in college sports “probably means that at this point and time we have to take a look at moving forward,” Baker said. “But I don’t have a problem with the rule as it is.”
Such requirements and restrictions for reclassifying teams “depend on factors beyond athletic performance,” the Division I Board of Directors’ Administrative Committee said in a recent statement. “Its purpose is to ensure that schools properly evaluate their long-term sustainability in the subdivision. Sponsorship of sports at this level requires increased scholarships, expanded athletics compliance efforts, and additional academic and mental health support for student-athletes, and the transition period is intended to provide Members have time to adapt to those increasing demands to position student-athletes at those schools for long-term success.
James Madison next plays Saturday at Appalachian State, followed by the regular season finale a week later at Coastal Carolina.
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