We’re both traveling this week plus there just ain’t much going on, but a few quick items to get your JMU fix:
– C.J. Sapong has bounced back from his off-field struggles to tear things up on the field lately. He’s scoring in bunches now for the Philly Union and led them to a win over MLS front-runners Seattle last week.
– AD Jeff Bourne sent out a solid follow-up to the gameday experience survey including disclosing a fact we definitely agree with. Namely, that kickoff times between 3-6 p.m. are the best. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of those in the near future.
– Finally, it’s June 30th, 2015, do you know where your “comprehensive plan to strengthen JMU’s ‘national’ athletics brand” is?
Everett Withers doesn’t mess around. JMU’s head coach has spoken a lot about creating a new culture for JMU football and holding everyone accountable to his high standards. Yesterday, he backed up the talk. Withers dismissed three players who failed to live up to his expectations from the program. The players, Rhakeem Stallings, Jimmy Moreland, and K.J. Ford, were charged with petty larceny earlier this year and were suspended indefinitely. They’re due in court today, but Withers had had enough apparently. He offered the following explanation:
It is my responsibility to grow and mentor young people as we take our journey through the process of building a culture in the JMU football program. We must establish a foundation that seeks competitive excellence on and off the field. We set standards and we mentor our student-athletes to meet those standards. Unfortunately, these three young men are no longer associated with James Madison University football due to violations of our team core values and disregard for the legal system. When individuals threaten the integrity of our team appropriate action will be taken.
Make no doubt about it, this is a tough loss for the Dukes on the field. Moreland was a fan favorite and a tremendous talent. As a true freshman, he started all but one game at corner last season. He had three picks, 12 pass break ups, and blocked a ridiculous 5 kicks. The sky was the limit for him. Stallings was no slouch either. The redshirt sophomore started 10 games at linebacker and was third on the team in tackles with 80. Ford redshirted last season, but the defensive lineman was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school.
While this does nothing to raise our expectations for the defense this fall, it’s a good move for the program as a whole. Withers is huge on accountability and this sort of decisive action definitely sets a tone and helps avoid any Andre Nation or Justin Thorpe type situations down the road. Withers has made it clear that he wants players to excel on the field and set an example off it. Dismissing players as talented as Moreland and Stallings shows he’s not kidding around.
It’s still 73 days until JMU kicks off the 2015 football season on September 5 against Morehead State. It’s a date we’ve been looking forward to for months. It’s also a game that we only kinda sorta care about. No disrespect to Morehead State (the alma mater of the great Phil Simms btw), but the Eagles won’t be given much of a shot to win by anyone. And with good reason. They don’t have anywhere near the resources or support that JMU has. And as a result, this figures to be little more than a tune-up against a team from a school that few JMU fans have much of a connection with.
It’s still a home game though, with all of the opportunities to tailgate, catch up with old friends, and watch Vad Lee and the Dukes perform. It’s going to be fun and we’re definitely looking forward to it. However, much like recent out of conference opponents St. Francis or Central Connecticut States, Morehead State isn’t exactly a team that leaves JMU fans overcome with excitement.
Coach Withers and his staff seem to have less affinity for these sorts of match-ups than the previous regime. We’ve heard a lot of talk about “juice” and a willingness to take on FBS teams, but he’s been locked in scheduling wise. We don’t yet know what sort of out of conference schedule JMU play when Withers is calling the shots. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play fantasy AD ourselves and aimlessly speculate. read more…
So in the spirit of BuzzFeed’s most awful listicle, we’ll just keep trucking along with our Offseason Lists. After throwing out random, old-nerd beer and book selections, this week we’re fessing up to all the dad rock we’re listening to this summer in our first Offseason Listening List. As you’ll quickly be able to tell, we can be a little locked-in-our-genres and have some big blind spots, but we like everything so share in the comments what you’re into this summer.
Shakey Graves – Dearly Departed: This former one-man band is now a three piece band with what appear to be two 13 year olds, but these guys have huge potential if they can keep any semblance of control on their on-stage partying. This song was one of a couple featuring Esme Patterson helping out on vocals and is fantastic.
The Lone Bellow – Heaven Don’t Call Me Home: This song’s not exactly predictive of the entire excellent album Then Came the Morning, but it sure does make me happy (and I’m guessing Zac will agree here).
Sturgill Simpson – Turtles All the Way Down: It’s not the best song on the incredible Metamodern Sounds in Country Music album, but it’s easily one of the most original lyrical topics and the clearest sign to date that the worst of the shittastic bro-country era may finally be behind us (also see Stapleton, Chris)
Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys: I wasn’t a Rilo Keilly nut, but I liked this song immediately and have been surprised by it’s staying power for the last few months. I’m still happy to hear it every time.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Saturday’s Song: This isn’t new, but seeing this truly dad-group perform on their limited touring schedule was the highlight of the year show-wise so far.
Eric Church – Like a Wrecking Ball: I think Church may finally be the one those of us that still like country music have been waiting for – a mainstream-accepted act that doesn’t sound like just another frosted-haired Kenny Chesney.
Rayland Baxter – Olivia: For Dric.
Amy Helm – Rescue Me: Hey it’s Levon Helm’s kid and who knew? She seems to be finding her way just fine.
Hozier – From Eden: An unexpected highlight of my only festival so far this year. When I first heard Take Me to Church, I’m guessing I wasn’t alone I immediately thinking “this is great, but definitely a one-hit wonder type.” But there’s real depth in his eponymous album and his former connections to the Trinity.
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – Little Fang: I know absolutely nothing about the who, how, or what the hell is going on with this group? person? album? but somehow this has been on our house playlist for months and neither of us have wanted to cut it out.
Chris Stapleton – Tennessee Whiskey: Former songwriter for big names finally showing why he should’ve been the one on stage all along.
And a few bonus picks from Rob:
Lady Lamb – Billions of Eyes: What can I say? I’m a rapidly approaching middle aged man who likes girl indie-pop. So be it.
Sufjan Stevens – Should Have Known Better: One of those songs where, depending on your perspective, you could dive into the lyrics and come away either feeling depressed or incredibly uplifted, or you could just zone out and enjoy the melody. In short, it’s a Sufjan Stevens song.
Toro Y Moi – Empty Nesters: If I could dance, this song would make me want to dance. Repeatedly. The acoustic version might be even better too.
Heems – Sometimes: I just dig it. And I want to spur a debate about whether or not this playlist we created is “eclectic” or “completely and utterly disjointed.”
Neon Indian – Annie: I’ve gone back and forth on this song for a few days now, but I’m starting to really dig it. Perhaps it’s because I think that if I was in a cheesy summer comedy, this would be a great song to play during a montage of me and my goofy friends fixing a car, saving a school, or something like that. Or maybe it’s just catchy.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Alabama Pines: No JMUSB music list would be complete without some Jason Isbell. However, it would be virtually impossible for us to narrow it down to one particular song, so we’ll go with this great suggestion from @DaveButz. Really though, anything by Jason Isbell is alright by us.
Gogol Bordello – Start Wearing Purple: Because we’re Rootin ‘fer Dukes!
Rogue has been crafting fine ales for decades. The wonderful folks from Newport, Oregon have recently created a special brew that might be just about the perfect JMU football tailgaiting beverage. You guessed it, it’s a purple. It’s called Wasted Sea Star Purple Pale Ale and it’s believed to be the world’s first purple beer.
Brewed with purple corn nectar, the beer has a distinct reddish-purple hue. And since it’s made by Rogue, you can count on it to be tasty. We’ve longed for a purple beverage to show our Dukes’ pride on gamedays. Sure, there’s Purple Drank, but we prefer to leave that to the Lil’ Waynes of the world. A purple pale ale is much more our style.
It turns out, the brewers at Rogue aren’t actually brewing this beer specifically for us Dukes fans. Shocking, we know. Instead, it’s being brewed to raise awareness of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, which is a pandemic killing millions of sea stars along the Pacific Coast. A portion of the proceeds from the beer will go towards research to fight the pandemic. So it’s for a good cause. But mostly, it’s purple.
Sadly, the beer is only available in limited quantities in Oregon, Washington, and California. If any Dukes fans from out there will be making the trip back to the ‘burg this fall for a game, bring a few bottles of the purple stuff. And feel free to share.
Tom Yeager, the only commissioner the Colonial Athletic Association has ever known, announced his intention to retire today. This upcoming school year, will be Yeager’s last as commish. He’s held the position since the league was founded all the way back in 1985. JMU was a founding member, along with Richmond, George Mason, William & Mary, East Carolina, UNCW, American, and the Naval Academy.
Much has changed since the conference was founded 30 years ago. It’s obvious that many JMU fans would like the school to move on for greener pastures. At its peak though, the CAA was a pretty fantastic mid-major hoops league and the premier FCS football conference in the land. Tom Yeager deserves a lot of credit for the league’s success. During his tenure as commissioner, “the conference has produced 19 national team champions in five different sports, 33 individual national champions, 16 national coaches of the year and 17 national players of the year.” That’s remarkable.
By no means am I an expert on CAA history, nor am I particularly well informed about the inner workings of the league office. I don’t get why some JMU fans grumble every time Yeager’s name is mentioned though and seem to blame him for JMU’s current “struggles” to find a fit in today’s college sports landscape. Seems like misplaced anger.
I’m not arguing the CAA is a great league or the right home for JMU. That’s a topic for a different day. Whatever your thoughts on the state of the conference though, JMU needs to own its place in it. Letting Sherman Dillard and Dean Keaner run the hoops program into the ground, while pouring millions of more dollars into football than its peers, didn’t exactly create a strong bond between JMU and its more hoops-focused league brethren. It shook things up to the point of instability.
After that when the realignment dominoes started falling, the hoops schools with better options headed for the door. There were other factors at play, and maybe those schools would have eventually left anyway. JMU’s actions definitely played a role in the CAA’s massive transformation though. Gripe all you want about the replacement schools (and I do, repeatedly), but don’t blame Yeager if you’re frustrated that JMU is stuck in a “crumbling” CAA. Plus, if we’re being honest here, mocking the CAA and acting like JMU is too good for it, is just counterproductive. Doing it despite the fact that the Dukes are far from dominant in hoops or football, really ain’t a good look for us as a fanbase. Neither is taking out our frustrations on the league commish. Instead, let’s wish him well and tip our hats to a heck of a career.
So this is more than a bit off-topic from our usual selections, but it’s the offseason and we don’t want to completely disappear. In the spirit of that offseason, we present the inaugural edition of JMUSB’s Summer Reading List (really brings back the warm memories, eh?). Look, it’s established that we’re old dorks. But we certainly aren’t literary experts, so take this with a grain a salt and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. Hopefully you get a chance to sit on the beach with something worthwhile for you.
1) A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash – Simply the best book I’ve read in the last three years. Completely unexpected and I’m forever in debt to the amazing woman that pointed me in Cash’s direction. I can’t even talk about it because to try to explain anything will ruin it. Just read this right now and don’t ask questions.
2) The Long Lavender Look by John D. McDonald – Ok, this one’s a bit of a personal pick and it may not be for everyone (particularly anyone under 30 or so), but McDonald’s Travis McGee is my favorite recurring character ever created. I’ve been patiently spacing out the 20 or so McGee novels, limiting myself to one per beach vacation (basically once a year), and I’m
legitimately sad that I’m nearly through these fun, but often melancholy and never without a grisly death or two, time-capsules to the [mostly] 70’s south Florida. You can really start anywhere in the series, but the world’s best indie-version private eye stories rarely disappoint. PC-crazies should beware that while McDonald’s views on crime, law enforcement, and sometimes even the environment are way ahead of his time, there’s a definite Mad Men-era attitude towards race and gender here. The Long Lavender Look is not typical of McGee (there’s no long-distance travel and very little houseboat cruising time), but it’s a cool picture of a part of South Florida that hardly exists at all today. So pour yourself some Plymouth on ice and find yourself a cheap folding chair.
3) Serena by Ron Rash – Some (though judging from the numbers not many) of you may have seen Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence reprising their frequent relationship in the movie based on this novel last year, but as always the book >>>>> the movie and this is definitely worth the read.
4) The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant – Homer pick, but also legit. We’ve plugged this one by JMU’s own Bondurant before, but I’ve also been surprised how much the feeling and eerie mood of this story of modern searching at the edge of Ireland has stuck with me a few years after reading it. The couple in the book combines the tropish Ugly American with a real searcher in a way that oddly hits home and I always like a story with subtle, but not cartoonish, hints of the supernatural/spiritual world.
5) Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote – Gotta have a classic on the list and with all the hype and controversy over the “new” Harper Lee novel due out this summer, the debut novel by her longtime compatriot and mentor seems fitting. The most stunning thing about Other Voices is that it was published in 1948. 1948. It’s just incredible how fresh the issues discussed still seem given that sexual and gender identity issues have only recently taken center-stage in American life.
6) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – Thrones and Potter nerds unite for summer reading fan service!
7) Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall – shoutout to Dr. Bryce-Finch wherever you are. If you take the time to check this out, you’ll realize it’s about as far away from my own life experience and privilege as possible, but this one always slows me down and helps me find empathy for others through the realization we all really have no idea what anyone else’s story really is. You can find a great searching-for-deeper-meaning story through a protagonist with any background.
8) Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum – maybe this non-fiction selection is a little too personal, but it’s a great thought-experiment whether you actually identify with this thought personally or just question your friends’ or family members’ decisions.
What’s everyone else reading this summer?
Former JMU tight end Mike Caussin recently got married. Normally a JMU football alum tying the knot wouldn’t be news, but Caussin got hitched to a celebrity of sorts. His bride is the lovely Jana Kramer. According to US Weekly, Kramer is a country singer and One Tree Hill alum. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about One True Hill is, but apparently being an alumnus of it is important to tabloid readers. That’s fine. We’ve always had sort of an understanding with US Weekly that we’ll cover the JMU alumni related stuff and they’ll take everything else. It works out well.
Here are a few other JMU related nuggets to start your week with.
There is no league policy on the issue, but JMU and every other CAA Football program have decided not to provide athletes the full cost of attendance. Also, note that the article states JMU home games will be featuring replay reviews this season.
Checking out the West Virginia hoops schedule shows us that JMU will play the Mountaineers in Charleston, WV on November 16. That’s a solid OOC road game for the Dukes.
Coach Brady announced the signing of JUCO transfer Shakir Brown. The 6’6″ guard/forward averaged 20 and 10 playing for Angelina College in Texas. He shot 48% from the field and a solid 36% from long range.
The Diamond Dukes’ Kyle McPherson was named to the 2015 Lousville Slugger Freshman All America team. The second baseman batted .311 and had an on-base percentage of .401. He was also named the CAA Rookie of the Year.
Other than that, my Google alert just tells me that lots of small town papers are very proud of their local kids who made the dean’s list at JMU. Slow week.
Well, our annual FBS/FCS post is upon us, but I need to begin with an apology. In case you didn’t know, that was clearly me (Todd) losing my friggin’ mind on Twitter about this subject on Saturday night and I owe an apology to Rob, always the more levelheaded of the two of us on this matter, for dragging him into this and screwing our generally halfway-decent reputation. But also to anyone who’s ever believed what we hoped to do when we started this project six years ago – to be a more thoughtful, less reactionary, less vitriolic landing place for JMU fans than some of our message boards – I sincerely apologize. It doesn’t mean I’m not angry about the subject. It doesn’t mean my anger isn’t fading into simple disappointment and apathy about JMU sports. But that doesn’t excuse crossing the line and I apologize.
Now about that anger and disappointment. Unsurprisingly another June 1st – the date for announcing conference moves – has come and gone and JMU remains #CAA4lyfe. Not to worry, as the Dukes administration will be quick to remind us, there’s always another June 1st. But with UAB’s announcement that they’ll be bringing football back, thus closing the potential opening in CUSA, that means the only spot remaining in FBS land is the SunBelt, a door JMU appears to have already slammed shut.
This was going to be a long, extended piece, but no one really cares anymore and I just don’t have the energy to rage any longer. The Dukes administration has truly institutionalized me I guess, so I’ll just stick to the high points in editorial fashion (i.e. without deep-dive links and exhaustive research you wouldn’t expect from us anyways) and move along to another exciting year in the CAA.
-Guarantee Games – West Virginia announced last week that after this year’s game with Youngstown St. they will be discontinuing all FCS games going forward. They join Maryland (and the whole B1G for that matter) as a frequent and recent “guarantee game” sponsor for JMU that will no longer be playing these games. And yet I thought it said somewhere in the shiny new packet of complete and utter bullshit that we previously defended [link] I received last week called the JMU Athletics Strategic Plan 2015-2020 [link] that “Achieving Guarantee Game Revenue” was a key facet to JMU gaining “sustainable revenue.” Look, college football nerds will love this year’s trip to Dallas to play SMU, but if you think the Mustangs are attracting casual JMU fans the way the locals that now won’t play us do, you’re kidding yourself. Don’t say you weren’t warned when the only guarantee games left are trips to Norfolk (ODU), Boone (App. St), Atlanta (Georgia St., already rumored to be on CUSA’s shopping list after paying dues in the SunBelt), Charlotte, Myrtle (Coastal Carolina), or Lynchburg (Liberty) for us to get our ass kicked by former “rivals,” or worse, nobodies.
-G5 money – Here’s the money made by the G5 conferences (non-power) in the first year of the college football playoff per the Charlotte Observer: MWC: 20.7 M, CUSA: 15.2 M, AAC: 14.1 M, MAC: 12 M, Sun Belt: 11.5 M.
And here’s the money made by the CAA last year: Oh wait…
But don’t worry, JMU will stay competitive and I’m sure some combination of JMU officials and CAA commissioner-for-life Tom “Sepp” Yeager have a plan to deal with Cost of Attendance issues and keep up with even some other FCS schools, including in-state new rival Liberty.
-Subsidization – According to USA Today, JMU is #2 in the NATION for percentage of Athletics subsidized by student fees. Just let that sink in. Tell me one game in the last three years where there were more than 2000 students in the stands in the 4th quarter – it doesn’t exist. Now think about that ranking again. In other words, students are being forced to pay for a product they don’t give a shit about. Look, we’ve been huge apologists for this stat for years. Yes, the top of this list is littered with Virginia public schools because privates don’t have to report and Virginia has better transparency laws on this than other states (i.e. schools can’t quietly and shadily subsidize Athletics out of tuition money they way they can in most states and therefore the number is inflated), because JMU includes line items like the whole MRD’s and debt service on Bridgeforth Stadium in their “Athletics” number unlike other schools and when those are removed, as they will be in meeting Virginia’s new cap on this percentage, JMU’s percentage drops to a sort-of more defensible 60% or so, and because we hoped they had some plan for increasing revenues to combat this problem (here’s a hint, they don’t). But this is at best completely unacceptable and at worst a FIFA-esque level of graft for a product that isn’t helping the University.
When JMU’s brilliant former President Linwood “not on my watch” Rose allegedly told CUSA they could kiss his ass four years ago when ODU got the call, the cost to exit the CAA was something around say $0 and the cost to enter CUSA was $1M. Today those numbers are $1M to leave the CAA (which JMU voted for even right when GMU was leaving and they first started to realize they were in deep shit) and $2M to join CUSA, not that JMU will EVER be doing that. I don’t even need to speculate, read between the lines, or feed you bull shit to tell you that’s a failure to know what the hell was going on.
And oh yeah, what about former in-state, non-football rivals VCU and GMU you ask? Well, the Atlantic 10, their new conference, is doing just fine after sending three or more teams to the NCAA basketball tournament during EACH of the last three years individually. No how many teams the CAA has sent during that same timeframe? Three total. But don’t worry, both JMU AD Jeff Bourne and CAA Commish-for-life Sepp Yeager told the Daily News Record that the CAA is on the cusp of turning the corner and almost right back where it was before the defections.
Average Per Game Attendance Numbers at New BFS
Look, you can spin that ANY way you want and throw in a billion caveats, but the truth is the truth. Fans really clamor for that FCS gridiron action. We don’t know the Duke Club or club seat retention numbers just yet, but I don’t think we’ll need a slide rule, much less any supercomputer, to see a trend
Now that the MEAC and SWAC have made the very reasonable (from a survival and revenue standpoint) to abandon the FCS playoffs altogether in favor of a much more lucrative ESPN “Bowl” game type matchup to conclude their seasons, the FCS is down to something like 80 teams TOTAL who are playoff eligible (Ivy doesn’t participate). And that’s before you even begin talking about WHO those teams are (here’s a hint – less than 10 are relevant in any way and that’s generous) and of course a full 24 of them make the playoffs.
-2004 – now – I really have no words.
-What the Duke Club reps were saying in private and at Coaches Caravans? Just two years ago, everyone we heard from inside JMU Athletics and the Duke Club was saying essentially that “it’s just a matter of when, not if” about JMU finding a new conference home. The line now is all the way 180 degrees back to the end of the Rose administrations, “JMU is well positioned when the right opportunity presents itself but there’s unlikely to be anything in the near future.”
Other Schools Nearly Guaranteed to Pass JMU
Liberty, Coastal ‘fucking Carolina, Eastern goddamned Kentucky (these two are the Sun Belt’s rumored new targets), NDSU (although they are one of the two or three FCS schools that make money as-is so they may not have to).
Where that leaves us?
Us? Just Monitoring University? Who cares.
But seriously, here’s how I feel. The revenue is what matters. And the utter failure to think ahead is JMU’s own fault even if the primary person or persons responsible are no longer in charge. CAA/FCS is fine, but at the current price tag, it just isn’t. Jump up anywhere that will have you or stay but SLASH costs. If that costs us on the field, so be it. I truly don’t care if JMU wants to move up or not, but they need to own that shit either way and deal with the consequences. I for one would rather give money to truth (i.e. We don’t want to move up) even if others disagree. It’s the lying/misleading in the ask that’s destroyed the last of my patience.
I know Rob and I agree that we believe under Alger JMU really does want to move up, but the opportunity they want isn’t there. It was under Rose, but it ain’t now. And we think they simply believe the money doesn’t work out in the Sun Belt. It probably doesn’t, but neither does the status quo. Move anywhere that will have you and hope to change things/move again, or stay and cut. That’s our position.
If you made it this far, thank you.
Vad Lee was a beast on the field for JMU last year. We all know this. He not only led the Dukes back to the playoffs, he set school records for passing yards, completions, passing touchdowns, and total offense. Which makes it all the more impressive that he might be having a greater impact off the field.
Lee and his former high school football teammate Myer Krah have both been fortunate to play football in college. Lee at JMU obviously, and Krah at the Naval Academy. After winning a North Carolina state championship together at Hillside High School in Durham in 2010, the two decided they wanted to give something back to their community. They collaborated with their former coach, to create the “All in Scholarship.” They started in 2013 by raising $500 that was awarded as a scholarship to a Hillside graduate who used the money to attend Elizabeth State University. The amount awarded has doubled each year, so that this year two $1,000 scholarships were offered to individual graduates attending UNC and Campbell.
In addition to creating the scholarship, Lee and Krah have also created the “All In Reunion” that brings back former Hillside players for a celebration. It’s sounds like a great event that really has a positive impact on the community. You can read all about it here. It’s definitely worth your time and will give you yet another reason to be proud Vad Lee is a Duke.