After weeks of speculation about where he’d transfer, former University of South Carolina QB Connor Mitch finally announced that he’s headed to JMU yesterday. Mitch won the starting job at USC prior to last season. Unfortunately for him, he suffered hip and shoulder injuries that knocked him out for the year after only two games. He has already graduated and will come to JMU with two more years of eligibility while he pursues a graduate degree.
Mitch was a four star recruit for Steve Spurrier coming out of high school, throwing for over 12,000 yards and earning PARADE All-American honorable mention. He was third on the Gamecock’s depth chart coming out of spring ball, but head coach Will Muschamp said he was going to give him a chance to compete for the QB 1 spot in the fall.
While Mitch has to be considered the favorite to start at QB, he’ll still need to beat out Bryan Schor. After Vad Lee went down with an injury last season, Schor stepped in and assumed the starting role. He was solid, but not spectacular. Now he’s got to beat out a 6’4″ 214 pound former SEC starter to win the job.
Jimmy Moreland (or Jimmy F#cking Moreland as he’s in JMUSB land) is back on the official 2016 JMU football roster. This is not a drill. This is real. Really. Just click on through and scroll down the page. That’s it, scroll just about a quarter of the way down, and there he is, #37 Jimmy Moreland.
As you recall, Jimmy got into a little bit of trouble off the field after his outstanding freshman season. As a result, Everett Withers kicked him off the team. There were all sorts of rumors that he was going transfer elsewhere to play. But he didn’t. He actually stayed at JMU and just took classes like a normal student. Maybe he thought that if he kept his nose clean and focused on the classroom, he’d get a shot to play football again.
Whether he goal was to rejoin the team or not, new head coach Mike Houston decided to let him participate in spring ball on a “trial basis.” He apparently did enough both on the field and off it, to merit being added back to the roster.
We couldn’t be happier about this news. Everyone makes mistakes and Jimmy didn’t run from his. He accepted his punishment and continued to work at being a student. It’s nice to see him get a second chance.
In case you forgot, Moreland is one heck of a football player. He started 12 games at corner as a freshmen and quickly became a fan favorite for his aggressive play and athleticism. He 12 pass break ups and 3 interceptions (2 returned for TDs) on defense and managed to block 5 kicks on special teams. He was a big play machine. And now he’s back.
We’re well into the offseason and there really isn’t much breaking news to discuss in the world of JMU sports. We could delve into Brexit talk but it’s probably better to leave that to the experts (like Lindsay Lohan). That leaves us with pretty slim pickens for the blog. Thankfully JMU dropped this 2015-2016 highlight video on the world yesterday. And it’s a great reminder of how special the 2015-2016 year was for JMU. A bunch of good things happened in the world of JMU sports this past year, but the thing that will stick in our memories for years to come, was definitely Gameday. What about you? What else stood out?
Late last week JMU announced that it was going to pay Cost of Attendance (COA) stipends for men’s and women’s basketball. This proves two things. First, that this should not be anyone’s go-to site for breaking news (it’s 4 days old now) and second, that the powers that be at JMU accept the reality of today’s college basketball environment.
As we’ve mentioned previously, it doesn’t really matter if you agree in principle with COA stipends. The fact is, that they basically are the new “full ride” for college basketball. The horse is out of the barn. Even President Alger, who penned a letter in opposition to the very idea of COAs, realizes that now. Most schools are already paying them. Not doing so, puts a program at a competitive disadvantage. Former JMU women’s basketball coach was very vocal about how not being able to offer COA was hurting his program. Thankfully, the administration listened and committed to giving Coach Rowe and Coach O’Regan the support they need to recruit top players.
One last thing. Without getting into some socioeconomic discussion, it’s foolish to say that COA shouldn’t be a deciding factor in any recruits decision about which school to attend. JMU will offer scholarship basketball players a stipend of over $4,000 year. If you were fortunate enough to have your parents pay your tuition (like both of us were) and don’t think that sounds like much money, then God bless you. Maybe you could get a summer job or even have your parents throw a little spending cash your way when you were a student. Not everyone is that lucky. And it’s virtually impossible for college basketball players, who “work” 11 months a year, to get a side job. So while some folks might think that a few thousand dollars a year shouldn’t factor into a young person’s decision where to attend college, it will. It’s a nice chunk of change for a college student and could even help pay for some families to come attend a few games.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
When Faulkner wrote those words, I’m pretty sure he meant it in some grand, haunting, melancholic way. But I’ve always enjoyed associating the quote with wonderful things too. And that’s the only quote that comes to mind after my experience last weekend at the Madison Alumni Conference 2016 (“MAC”) back on campus. (Well, that or maybe “Once it hits your lips, it just tastes so good. Gimme another!” from Frank the Tank). In either case, I’m warning you now that this post is full of a dangerous amount of earnestness that’s going to sound a lot like being an apologist. If that annoys you, stop reading now. It’s also largely a photo essay because there is simply no way for me to accurately put all the feels from this weekend into words.
In this case though, you really can go home again, and I never imagined the weekend would be such an adrenaline shot of pure, unadulterated, old-school Dukes-ness that I’d end up overwhelmed by the pressure of even attempting to recapture it in writing for you all (and the three-day tiredness that only comes from an old-man watching the sun come up).
First, a brief note on what the MAC is. It’s the Alumni Association’s annual conference where they train up local chapter leaders and Duke Club volunteers. For example, the leaders of my “local” alumni chapter, the fantastic NC Triangle Dukes (our boss is in the last picture in this post and is getting things done!), go to MAC to learn how to host events, grow the chapter, and generally spread the gospel of JMU. You’ve got regional chapters, activity-specific groups like MRD’s or Cheerleading, and of course the Duke Club. And that’s where we come in. For years, we’ve watched from afar as friends-of-JMUSB have attended the conference and generally geeked out on all things JMU. We confess at times we’ve even been a bit skeptical and snarky about the level of purple kool-aid consumption required to attend this conference. But this year for reasons still largely unfathomable to us, the Duke Club buttered us up and convinced me to attend by giving us “a major award.” Ok, maybe it wasn’t exactly a major award, but it was way better than a leg lamp. And being named All Iron Dukes for our efforts to assist the Duke Club with this year’s home-run event, the inaugural JMU Giving Day, and for generally promoting JMU Athletics in a “mostly” positive manner, was truly a humbling and pretty damned cool thing after years of assuming we were writing this for an audience 80% made up of family members. To see our names up on the screen with Arthur Moats and a guy we now call a friend and “staffer,” but was honestly one of our very first fans when we started this project, Justin Partlow, made it even better!
But first things first, and we started Friday evening with a guided tour of the new UREC. It’s so ridiculously glorious that it’ll get it’s own post Friday complete with video of the lazy river and video of the “dorm” we stayed in but I should say our tour itself was led by an expert trio of JMU football players, in this case TE Jonathan Kloosterman, DE Jordan Brooks, and DB Justin Wellons. Then we went to a picnic at Festival, which was sort of barely open my senior year, but was nothing like what it’s ended up today. Reunions with some fellow ’99 clowns, a little networking, a hot dog or three, and of course, corn hole and group shots! I must confess following the picnic I broke away to go downtown to the fantastic Capital Ale House to meet up with a couple non-MAC friends in town and spend the evening with them.
In true JMU fashion I stayed up too late, slept in and missed a couple sessions, grabbed some Mr. J’s with friends instead, and barely rolled into the Duke Club breakout session Saturday morning at 11. Now that’s going home again!
Saturday was a great day, where I’d like to think I positively contributed to the discussion in both the Duke Club and Giving Day sessions, and thoroughly enjoyed the plenary session on Admissions, which laid out both just how different (in the best way) JMU is today from a demographics standpoint and the enormous challenges facing all schools, but especially regional publics, in today’s higher education world.
Finally, after all the learning and stuff, they sent us back to the dorms to
preparty, er, get ready for the Alumni Association Awards Dinner and Extravaganza. And wouldn’t you know it, they shuttled us right to the old building that used to be the center of student life when I was there. Check box anyone? And the show itself was exactly where I dreamed it would be – The Steakhouse! Needless to say, a steak dinner and an open bar complete with local craft beers led to dancing, carousing, and general shenanigans. And of course to a crazy bus-ride home filled with fight-song renditions and discussions of how to turn a study lounge into a fraternity basement for a few more hours. This was of course accomplished by clearing out unnecessary furniture and someone being willing to give up the fridge from their apartment for the cause and another person providing a slick speaker setup. To protect the innocent, the guilty, and the gainfully employed, I end my story here, but let’s just say I was happily reminded of one thing by Mr. JMU himself, that sometimes a terrible decision to give up a couple of hours sleep, stay up all night, and engage in some harmless trespassing will hurt on Sunday, but provide a happy memory for years to come. In fact, making that exact decision is what separates Dukes from muggles and provides the reason why if you want to reconnect with your alma mater, you really should find a way to get involved in your chapter so you can get back to MAC next year!
Before I forget, some acknowledgments and thank-yous. An absolutely bottom-of-my-purple-heart thank you to Meredith Crawford of the Duke Club for taking a chance that Rob and I wouldn’t embarrass you (too much) if you brought us into the mix this year and to Aaron Epstein for listening to her and for hanging out all weekend! Also a huge shout-out to Ashley Privott and her team for making this such a special event. In all of our hand-wringing and admin-questioning, sometimes we forget just how lucky JMU is to have the people it does working on the good side! To my roommates, Tim Emry, Chris Levey, and Matt Sarge – let’s run it back next year, though I may be at the hotel. And to the late-night trespass crew, you know who you are and that’s good work people!
Oh yeah, on Sunday they opened the bookstore for us so they could earn back the junket we all thought was free. Of course we were more than happy to repay the favor!
D.J. Daniels was a prized recruit for JMU football. He’s a dynamic QB who wasn’t slated to start this Fall, but had enough talent that many people thought he’d find his way onto the field somehow. Daniels is also an excellent baseball player. In addition to playing football at JMU, he was going to suit up for Martin Ikenberry’s Diamond Dukes. Now he’ll be doing neither. The Toronto Blue Jays selected Daniels in the 6th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Daniels announced that that he’s going to forego college and pursue a career in pro baseball. The Blue Jays offered him a $300,000 signing bonus and he’s taking it to play.
This is a big opportunity for D.J. and we wish him well. But it’s also a big blow to JMU football, and obviously to JMU baseball as well. Daniels is an athletic QB with a big arm. He played in a fast paced offense in high school that would have helped him transition to JMU and the FCS. However, $300K is a lot of money for a high school kid. It’s a lot of money for anyone. And with it comes a chance to play major league baseball. We were looking forward to him playing in Bridgeforth on Saturdays, but there’s no faulting a kid for pursuing his dream. We’ll be rooting for him.
Up until last year, the NCAA sought to minimize travel costs by using regionalization to help set playoff match-ups. The concept basically mandated that schools should play an opponent within a certain radius whenever possible in the first round. Theoretically, this would keep save money and lead to more regional rivals facing each other in the postseason. In reality, it frustrated fans who believe that it set up a competitive imbalance. Some teams benefited by being in close proximity to weaker conferences, increasing the likelihood of facing a easier first round match-up (a la RU vs. Hampton). Others felt that being located near a power program put certain schools at a disadvantage (basically anyone who has to go to NDSU). And playing conference rivals in the playoffs sounds great, until a whole bunch of MVC or CAA teams find themselves on one side of the bracket and knock each other out.
The gripes are legit. Well intentioned as it might have been, regionalization was a bit of a bummer. Well now it’s going away. Sort of. The NCAA Division 1 Football Oversight Committee voted to eliminate regionalization starting in this years’ playoffs. But there’s a catch. The change will only go into effect if four teams from a single conference make the 24 team playoff. The change still needs to be passed by the NCAA Division 1 Council at its meeting in October, but signs indicate it will.
We’re fully on board with this change. JMU plays in the CAA, one of the top FCS leagues in the country. You’ll never catch us cheering for the Ticks or the Blue Chickens, but more postseason success is good for the whole league. CAA teams facing each other deep in the playoffs is great. CAA teams knocking each other out in the first two rounds stinks. Especially when weaker teams slide through thanks to regionalization. And as the current top dog conference, the above applies to the MVC tenfold. This is a positive change that will be good for FCS.
The headline pretty much says it all. Never in the history of JMU softball has a player been named to the National Fast Pitch Coaches All-America team. Now two have. Sophomore sensation Megan Ford and Jailyn Ford, the greatest player in program history, both made the first team. Both players had earned All America status before, but never first team. Good was second team last year, while Ford made second team in 2014, and third team last season.
Not only were Ford and Good deserving of All America recognition, their selection is further proof that JMU’s top 10 ranking and rise to national prominence was no fluke. Coach Mickey Dean is building a championship contender and he’s doing it with top tier talent. As a pitcher, Good lead the nation in wins with 32 and had an era of 0.94. Ford went 18-3 with a 1.03 ERA. And she wasn’t bad with a bat in her hand either, leading the team in homers, triples, total bases, and slugging.
The loss to LSU still stings, but it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the JMU softball team as a whole had a season for the ages. And that was largely due to the outstanding duo of Megan Good and Jailyn Ford.
Well, that was as sad a day of JMU sports as we can remember since the loss to Montana in the ‘o8 football semis. After winning in dramatic fashion Friday night on Jessica Mrozek’s walk-off hit to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series against LSU, JMU was unable to win either game that would’ve sent them to the College World Series on Saturday, dropping two tough ones 2-0 and 3-2. In the second game, the Dukes had the bases loaded and all-time program great Senior Jailyn Ford at the plate with two outs in the last inning. Alas, even mighty Casey does indeed strike out sometimes.
In giving up only 2, 2, and 3 runs to LSU’s dynamic lineup in each game, there can be absolutely no complaint about the pitching from JMU’s two rockstars in Ford and sophomore Megan Good. This is especially true given Ford’s minor injury suffered in Game 1 which forced Good into action more than was probably expected. Ford returned to the circle for Game 3 despite the injury and toughed out five strong innings to give the Dukes every chance. We’re not going to dwell on the game details, but a surprisingly shaky defensive performance throughout the series and an almost surreal inability to get the big hit doomed the Dukes to ending the greatest season in program history a week earlier than they would’ve liked. JMU had runners on base throughout the series and looked every bit the Tigers equal (mostly seeming the slightly better squad), but just could never get that clutch hit to bring those runners around.
But despite that frustration and the sad ending, 50 wins is 50 wins. When you finish a season 50-6 in anything, you don’t hang your heads for even a second. And when the only two losses at home all season were in a NCAA SuperRegional, you simply tip your cap to the Bayou Bengals and say you earned it and good luck in OKC.
Seniors Jailyn Ford, Hannah Hayes, and Erica Field have been the most important trio in program history in taking JMU Softball to an entirely new level and we thank them for everything they’ve done! And if Coach Dean can find another great arm to take the reins from Ford and pair with Good, there’s clearly the possibility for two more years as a strong national contender. Not to mention that with unbelievable crowds we saw at JMU’s fantastic new facilities, all the ESPN love, and again, that 50-6 record which included a brutal out-of-conference schedule, it’s going to be fun to see just how high the Dukes “start” the season next year in what is usually a ridiculously P5-biased sport.
It’s a clash of the purple in the ‘burg today folks. The Harrisonburg Super Regional kicks off today as JMU Softball attempts to qualify for the trip to Oklahoma City for the NCAA Softball College World Series. Here’s what you need to know.
What is this?
It’s NCAA Softball Super Regional. Thought we made that pretty clear above.
Stop being an ass and give us the details.
Fair point. Think Sweet Sixteen in March Madness terms. The NCAA Softball tournament started last week with 64 teams. JMU is one of 8 teams hosting best of three series for the right to advance to the College World Series next weekend. Game one is at 3:00 today. Game two is at noon tomorrow, with game three (if necessary) to follow.
This sounds like a big deal. Is this a big deal?
Yes. Yes, it’s a very big deal in fact. Anytime a JMU team makes the postseason it’s great. JMU Softball didn’t just squeak into the tourney for the one game experience though. The ladies are a legit contender. NCAA Softball is not unlike hoops or basketball, in that it’s heavily weighted toward the P5. JMU crashed the party this year and put itself among the country’s elite.
I’m new, what’s so great about this particular JMU team?
Pitching. The pitching is amazing. Imagine if baseball had two man rotations and your favorite team had a one two punch of Noah Syndegard (LGM!) and Clayton Kershaw. That’s pretty much what the Dukes have in Jailyn Ford and Megan Good. Good has 217 strikeouts, a 0.90 ERA, and an opposing batting average of .150. Ford has 173 strikeouts, a 0.88 ERA, and an opposing batting average of .154. Yeah, that good.
What about LSU?
Yeah, the Tigers are pretty good too. LSU went 48-15 on the season, playing in the always tough SEC. They’re no stranger to postseason play, having made the Super Regional four previous times, including last year.
This sounds cool. I’m going to get tickets.
You can’t get tickets. They sold out in minutes (literally).
But I JMU released more tickets after the initial sellout.
They did. JMU added 700 temporary seats to accommodate the increased demand.
So, why can’t I get those tickets?
Because they sold out too. And in less than 3 minutes if we’re keeping score.
Oh. Well now what?
There’s always “The Hill” where you can join other Dukes fans and watch the game without a ticket.
Can I watch from home?
Yes. The series is going to be nationally televised by the worldwide leader. You can watch today’s game on ESPNU. And yes, you can even stream it from work because we know you won’t be doing anything productive at 3:00 the day before a three day weekend.
Anything else I should know?