Virginia AG threatens legal action over NCAA denial of James Madison football waiver

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A law firm engaged by Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares sent a demand letter to the NCAA on Wednesday threatening legal action if James Madison football was not granted a full bowl eligibility waiver.
Later Wednesday, the waiver request was denied for the second time. JMU, which is ranked No. 18 in the AP Top 25 but cannot appear in the College Football Playoff rankings, is 10-0 and ineligible for full bowl eligibility as a second-year FCS-to-FBS transition team, as has been the FBS rule for more than two decades. Jacksonville State and Tarleton State had similar waivers denied Wednesday.
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A lawsuit has not been filed, but the letter from Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, which was obtained by The Athletic, states the attorney general engaged the firm to represent JMU and claims a lawsuit would show denying full bowl eligibility to the Dukes violates antitrust laws. The letter states the rule is an unreasonable restraint of trade in the market in the United States for postseason bowl games and says it is unlawful under the Sherman Act and Virginia Antitrust Act.
“In our view, the anticompetitive effect of the rule is plain: it prevents new entrants in FBS from competing in bowl games notwithstanding their demonstrated ability,” the letter reads. “Moreover, by excluding otherwise deserving teams from competition, the NCAA harms not only JMU, but competition itself—the very thing that the NCAA markets to consumers.”
The letter states that JMU would seek monetary damages, a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction because it would be irreparably harmed without relief. It asks for a response from the NCAA by noon on Friday and hopes to have a court hearing on the matter on Nov. 21 or 22.
Miyares, a JMU alum, said in a statement late Wednesday that the ruling was “extremely disappointing and demonstrates yet again abject failure to act in the best interests of our nation’s student-athletes,” adding, “I am prepared to expose the NCAA’s unlawful conduct and seek justice for James Madison University through litigation, provided the University authorize me to do so.”
In explaining its JMU decision Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors Administrative Committee said the FCS-to-FBS transition requirements are “based on factors beyond athletics performance.”
“They are intended to ensure schools are properly evaluating their long-term sustainability in the subdivision,” the committee said. “Sponsoring 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 give members time to adjust to those increased requirements to position student-athletes at those schools for long-term success.
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“Division I members continually assess transition requirements, and the board continues to believe that if Division I members do not think the requirements are appropriate, those concerns should be addressed through rules changes rather than waiver requests.”
(Photo: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)

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