Last week Michael Birdsong said that after originally releasing him to transfer to any non-CAA school, Everett Withers was also blocking him from transferring to ODU, Charlotte, Liberty, and Appalachian State. Birdsong filed an appeal and had his case heard by a faculty committee yesterday afternoon. Today the committee supported Withers’ block of CAA schools and Charlotte, a school which is on the Dukes schedule this fall. It went against Withers and cleared the way for Birdsong to consider ODU, Liberty, and Appalachian State however.
Now that the appeals process is done, Birdsong is reportedly leaning toward transferring to ODU or Marshall. The DNR’s Matthew Stoss is reporting that Marshall has already offered Birdsong a full scholarship and he will take an official visit to the school this weekend. Thus far, Birdsong has had no contact with ODU. He says he plans to reach out to former JMU football assistant coach Ulrick Edmonds, who is now on the ODU staff, as soon as the paperwork clears.
It’s easy to see why Birdsong would be interested in playing QB for either Marshall or ODU. Both programs love the sling it around on offense. And both school’s offenses will be led by senior quarterbacks due to graduate after this upcoming season. NCAA rules dictate that Birdsong will need to sit out this upcoming season. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining after that. Clearly he must have confidence that he’ll be able to beat out the other QBs on the Marshall and ODU depth charts. Whether or not he can or will remains to be seen.
Coach Withers hasn’t commented on the decision, but AD Jeff Bourne said “I think the committee made a good decision. Coach Withers and I support it.” That’s some Grade A political speak right there, but there’s really not much else to say from JMU’s perspective. The NCAA’s rules regarding transfers are horribly unfair. Coaches and other members of athletic departments are free to move around as they see fit. Athletes are not for some reason. The rule doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s yet another aspect of college football that most of us as fans need to ignore or rationalize away. But personally speaking, the fact that Coach Withers tried to use it to his (and JMU football’s) advantage, doesn’t make me think any less of him. And I’m ready to put the whole thing behind us and move on.
Rob’s rational, well thought out, well-meaning post on Friday definitely had the desired effect on me. It grounded me in many ways and began to allow me to move from the anger stage to the sadness stage in what really has become a ridiculously emotional process for me on the conference front. When I actually stop to consider Rob’s most important thought – that a move has never actually been imminent – things start to make a little more sense. And while it bothers me that JMU continues to play the semantics game about “not having an invite” when we all know this borders dangerously on outright lying, and is the furthest thing from transparent, given the Sun Belt’s position, I am somewhat stunned by my own capacity to appreciate rejecting the Sun Belt for not aligning with JMU’s goals. In case you haven’t noticed from our Twitter account’s schizophrenic nature lately, we are in very different places on the conference issue. In a nutshell, Rob is a grownup and I am a screaming child. Or, for our fellow nerds who take the time to read books instead of just watching the movie, Rob is Demosthenes to my Locke. Generally, I think it’s fair to say we both think a move, at least a move to the MAC or CUSA, is absolutely better than the CAA. I have to admit I would have said the same about Sun Belt, while Rob probably would not have, but the truth is I actually find myself getting over the Sun Belt pretty quickly even if I’m extremely unexcited about the CAA. There’s another big difference, Rob doesn’t believe the CAA is crumbling while I do. Actually, crumbling is probably a bit much, but what’s absolutely unquestionable is that the CAA is made up more than ever of schools that have very little in common with JMU beyond horrible men’s hoops and this problem seems likely to get worse instead of better (can you say Winthrop?).
But myself and others like me probably need to realize that at this point, the only rational thing to really be angry at is JMU’s, well particularly Dr. Rose’s, missed opportunity to try for CUSA a few years back when ODU asked JMU and UD to go with them. THAT was a botch. But everything since then is not necessarily something I can go nuts about when I take a few steps back. I do believe that President Alger and AD Jeff Bourne want to move JMU to FBS, I just also believe they want to do so in a conference they can be proud of for a long time. If they don’t think that’s the Sun Belt, I’ll deal with it. But the reason I’ve really moved on to sadness instead of anger is there just isn’t an opening, or any reason whatsoever to expect one to be available in the foreseeable future, for JMU in either the MAC or CUSA. CUSA is D.O.N.E. with expansion unless there’s another major shift. They’re already at 14 and they may even regret they’re that large. The MAC is more realistic and may have enough long-term vision to try again on their east-coast expansion even if it means splitting playoff revenue 14 ways instead of 12, but they seem extremely unlikely to add JMU without a partner and there just isn’t a viable option out there. Hoping for UD to change their mind in the next year could be about as worthwhile as wishing on the unicorn that has always been an east coast conference. I hate the CAA, I hate that I’m so down about my beloved JMU, I hate that I’m so emotionally invested in this, and I hate most of all that Rob and I continue to argue about this. But my overriding emotion is clearly becoming sadness. In all the years I’ve had season tickets and been a Duke Club member, I’ve always looked forward to renewing. It’s the easiest large purchase I make all year. This year it feels the same way my Skins tickets used to – an awful check I’m writing to something that makes me miserable. And oh yeah, I no longer have Skins tickets.
As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. After months (years?) of fans begging JMU to provide some sort of communication about conference realignment and a potential FBS move, the school finally released a statement from President Alger this week. Said statement was met with a certain degree of frustration. And it was made public the very same day that Karl Benson, the Sun Belt Commissioner, spoke to reporters about JMU and said “it appears they made a decision to stay FCS.” Taken as a package, the two pieces of “news” sort of sent a vocal portion of the fan base over the edge. And I honestly have no idea why. read more…
Not entirely unexpected, but a little sad nonetheless, word came out today that last year’s QB1 Michael Birdsong, is transferring out of JMU. While this sounds shocking, it’s really not surprising at all given that last year’s Georgia Tech starter Vad Lee had transferred in and, according to reports, outplayed the Ginger Giant in last weekend’s Spring Game.
As we’ve said, Rob and I are a little tied up with life this week so we don’t have any extended thoughts, but we will offer the following:
1) We don’t want to hear a damned thing about Birdsong “being afraid of competition.” We played his ass off for the Dukes the last two years (and weren’t we all grateful when he took over for JT two years back!). He’s just being squeezed by the business end of small-time college football (darn tootin’ I meant to say “small time”). We thought of LeZotte the Elder too and while I’m sure he was glad to stick around for the title and his brother, I’ll also bet there’s a part of him that wished he’d been slinging it his whole career.
2) A HUGE thank you to Birdsong for his time at JMU. Seemed to be a good kid who enjoyed JMU, life, and the game.
3) We hope semi-heralded recruit and early enrollee Rob Nittolo, he of the “JMU’s going to CUSA” fame, is capable of backing up the team’s new leader in Lee.
4) And finally, we’ll really miss the hell out of this:
We know it’s not quite the offseason, and we know that softball, lacrosse and even men’s golf are going through strong spring seasons. But life, as it is wont to do, has intruded on our JMUSB schedule the last few weeks. Plus, we’ve been arguing with each other (in a civil, friendly way of course) over how to treat the eerie silence out of JMU on the conference realignment issue. Rob takes a rational approach – it’s out of our control so let it be, don’t worry, and Go Dukes. I’m losing my damned mind on this. I simply can’t believe that JMU has dithered and “monitored” and “perfectly positioned” themselves into a spot where conferences are sick to death of realignment and they seem entirely dependent on unlikely events (like Delaware making an actual decision or a conference other than the Sun Belt adding only one team this year). Oh yeah, and Go Dukes!
In any case, we’re going to leave it to Dukes Daily-New Record beat reporter Matthew Stoss to recap how things stand in his DukesofJMU blog. He’s more informed than we are for sure. And on the positive side, I’m glad he clarified that his “realignment fatigue” statement was mainly CUSA focused and probably unrelated to the MAC, the conference we still think JMU is headed for come the end of May. That said, the MAC clearly may decide to wait until a proper partner is ready, which doesn’t appear to be this year, and in the event that’s the BlueHens, you should never hold your breath as they can do the impossible (i.e. make JMU look downright nimble).
In any case, Rob’s right it’s out of our control, but if you want to join us in pointedly asking the questions no matter where you stand on this issue, we’re certainly looking forward to the Coaches Caravan events later this month.
JMU Football held it’s first ever Student Appreciation Day on Saturday and it was a rousing success by all accounts. Coach Withers brought this idea with him from Ohio State and JMU outdrew AAC member UConn’s similar event despite the fact we are #CAA4Lyfe! Students got a chance to watch practice, meet coaches, run routes and plays, and tour the locker room in the Plecker. One student even got to try field goals (in boat shoes) with a huge crowd around to put the pressure on. And the players themselves, running drills surrounded by their classmates in closer fashion than a PGA event, seemed to love the attention and really ramp up the enthusiasm by all accounts.
We are thrilled to hear Coach Withers initiated this event and it seems like the type of thing that might even lead to bigger events in other years, students actually getting to know the players, and maybe even a few students learning to care enough to stick around for the fourth quarter at BFS. All we know is we would have loved an event like this when we were students. Hell, we’d love an event like this now, but no word yet on when Alumni Appreciation Day will take off.
And oh yeah, not a bad spring recruiting event. And one of those recruits even mentioned something about realignment. Wait, what’s that? You don’t want to hear that “R” word? Neither does JMU and neither do we. But if you’re anything like me (as opposed to rational Rob) and you’re going to really lose it if news breaks soon that Liberty, effing Jerry Falwell’s open enrollment, non-selective admission, hate-filled Liberty, is taking the last available ticket out of the joke that is FCS while the Dukes brain trust continues monitoring the situation, than just know you’re not alone. Guess there’s always a silver lining – if Liberty honors the last game of their series with JMU, at least we’ll finally host an FBS team in Bridgeforth! Now excuse me while I go stab myself with a spork.
We had such a nice little plan for this week. First Rob would post the ThrowbackThursday video of JMU beating UVA in ancient times and then I’d tout the new Student Appreciation Day that the football team is putting on this weekend. We were gonna be happy and not even visit the message boards and stay in our happy place at least through the Final Four next week.
And then this. Men’s hoops stud Charles Cooke has been granted his release and is transferring out. Rumors had been simmering on this one, but we had hoped they were just that, rumors. Now we know that Cooke will be following Bessick and Rivard in an apparent exodus from Matt Brady’s program. Along with Bessick, the Dukes have now lost half of that fearsome foursome of freshmen that helped lead JMU back to the NCAA tourney last year and had given so many of us such high hopes for the two years remaining as a group. Now only Ron Curry, who thankfully has probably demonstrated the most growth on the court of that group, and Andre Nation, whose talent we all gape at but whose ability to maintain eligibility is about as reliable as the insanely schizophrenic tweets of @NEWERAJMUFB, remain. Talk about a buzzkill.
Look, these are college kids and they seem to have tried hard for JMU the last two years. We wish them well. And we certainly don’t know Cooke’s reasons – maybe he thinks he’s the next Luke Hancock (except he can’t shoot), maybe he’s tired of hearing Nation Nation Nation even though Andre was on the court less than half the year and may not take things as seriously as his teammates, or maybe he even thinks JMU is headed for a lameduck year anyways after some last-minute conference change in the next 60 days. But what’s sad is it seems entirely more likely the kids either a) don’t believe in Brady and the staff and/or b) are getting really poor advice. Probably a combination of the two, but the one thing we know is that this group could have been special and had a legit shot at back-to-back (and thereby 3/4 years) NCAA runs and maybe even to develop into a Stephen F. Austin type senior-laden team capable of anything and now they’re either going to some other similarly mediocre mid-major or going to be a role-player at a perceived better program.
Needless to say, Rob, our resident hoophead didn’t take the news very well today, and I think it’s fair to say this news actually drags us down about everything related to JMU Sports, including the realignment mess. It just sucks we never get a chance to enjoy things like the afterglow of a great women’s hoops run, a creative new event like Student Appreciation Day, or the red-hot run the softball team is on because Athletic’s two prize bellcows (football and men’s hoops) and the administration always seem ready to drop the other shoe on us like a cartoon anvil.
Today we’re going to look back, way back, to 1982. It was the year that the JMU Dukes defeated the University of Virginia 21-17. UVA was of course a member of the ACC. JMU on the other hand was in only its third season of 1-AA. It was a big win for that reason, but the truth is UVA was terrible. And we’re not talking Mike London terrible, we’re talking 2 winning seasons in a span of almost 3 decades terrible. The win came in George Welsh’s first year at the helm of the Cavalier program and avenged a 70 point loss JMU had against UVA in 1979, when the Dukes were in their first year of scholarship football and playing at the D-II level. And it grew more impressive with age when Welsh built UVA into a respectable program in the 80s and 90s.
JMU was an upstart in 1982, but the team was no joke. They went on to finish 8-3 and reached as high as 9th in the polls. One of the highlights in the win over UVA, was when QB John Roddy connected with the Duke’s Gary Clark for an 80 yard touchdown. Also on the field for the Dukes that day was freshmen Charles Haley. Both Clark and Haley of core went on to play in the NFL, win SuperBowls, and eventually earn induction into the JMU Hall of Fame.
We thought it was a fun little video to share. There’s a lot to like if you’re a child of the 80′s. The old school astro turf. The mesh jerseys. The high school-esque scoreboards. The complete lack of production quality. If you listen closely I think you can even hear Hall & Oates tunes playing in the stadium. OK, that’s not true. But it could be.
It’s official. Taylor Bessick is leaving JMU . He just received his realease papers and he’s able to talk to all schools except CAA
— Rise Academy (@RiseAcademy) March 28, 2014
Taylor Bessick is leaving JMU. The news first broke on Twitter courtesy of Rise Academy, the prep school Bessick played at prior to coming to JMU. The DNR’s Nick Sunderland was able to confirm the story later and get some additional details. According to Sunderland, Bessick has indeed been granted his release from JMU. He is now free to talk to any school except those in the CAA. Matt Brady however, wants him to stay and is leaving the door open for the 6’9″ sophomore to return. Reports are that Bessick’s mind is made up and he’s leaving JMU though.
Bessick displayed promise in limited minutes as a freshmen, but didn’t show the improvement some fans were expecting from him this past season. He even lost his starting spot to freshman Yohanny Dalembert down the stretch. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He had decent athleticism and somehow managed to shoot over 50% from the field, but seemed to struggle putting the ball in the hoop consistently.
Bessick’s coach at Rise Academy, Brahiim Williams, told Sunderland that Bessick is leaving because “he wanted more touches.” Fair enough. Everyone wants the basketball. Unfortunately, Bessick didn’t show the offensive game to really justify more touches. Williams went on to tell Sunderland that Bessick wants to end up a a D 1 program where they won’t make him a back to the basket player. Alright then. We hope that works out for him and sincerely wish him well wherever he ends up.
Of most interest to Dukes fans, was Bessick’s response to Sunderland’s questions about his roommates, Ron Curry, Andre Nation, and Charles Cooke. Bessick said he doesn’t think any of them will be transferring. That would be good news if true, and might do something to squash some of the rumors out there.
After the Bessick news broke, JMU freshman Tom Rivard’s name popped up on this list of 2014 transfers. There has been no comment of any sort by anyone connected with JMU basketball on Rivard thus far though.
Today we learned that UMass and the MAC are parting ways after 2015. UMass has played FBS football in the MAC for the past two years. In that time, the Minutemen compiled a record of 2-22, while playing home games 90 miles away in Foxborough. The school remained a member of the A-10 for all other sports. UMass’ decision came after the MAC issued an ultimatum, either join the league for all sports or exit in two years. UMass chose the latter. read more…