Virginia Attorney General Threatens Legal Action Against NCAA Over Bowl Eligibility
Law Firm Sends Demand Letter to NCAA on Behalf of James Madison Football
A law firm representing Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has issued a demand letter to the NCAA, threatening legal action if James Madison University (JMU) football is not granted a full bowl eligibility waiver. The waiver request, which was denied for the second time on Wednesday, has sparked controversy and raised concerns about antitrust violations.
JMU, currently ranked No. 18 in the AP Top 25, boasts an impressive 10-0 record but is ineligible for full bowl eligibility due to being a second-year FCS-to-FBS transition team. This rule, in place for over two decades, prevents the Dukes from appearing in the College Football Playoff rankings. Similar waivers for Jacksonville State and Tarleton State were also denied on Wednesday.
The demand letter, drafted by Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP and obtained by The Athletic, argues that denying full bowl eligibility to JMU violates antitrust laws. The letter claims that the rule is an unreasonable restraint of trade in the United States’ market for postseason bowl games, making it 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 states. “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 further asserts that JMU will seek monetary damages, a temporary restraining order, and a preliminary injunction if relief is not granted. It requests a response from the NCAA by noon on Friday and aims to schedule a court hearing on the matter for November 21 or 22.
Expressing disappointment with the ruling, Attorney General Miyares, an alumnus of JMU, stated, “This decision demonstrates yet again an abject failure to act in the best interests of our nation’s student-athletes. I am prepared to expose the NCAA’s unlawful conduct and seek justice for James Madison University through litigation, provided the University authorizes me to do so.”
In response to the JMU decision, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors Administrative Committee explained that the FCS-to-FBS transition requirements are based on factors beyond athletics performance. The committee emphasized that these requirements aim to ensure schools properly evaluate their long-term sustainability in the subdivision. Sponsoring sports at this level necessitates increased scholarships, expanded athletics compliance efforts, and additional academic and mental health support for student-athletes. The transition period allows members time to adjust to these increased requirements and position student-athletes for long-term success.
The committee also stated that Division I members continually assess transition requirements and believe that concerns regarding the appropriateness of these requirements should be addressed through rules changes rather than waiver requests.
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