The James Madison director of athletics, Jeff Bourne, said Tuesday that he hopes the Dukes’ football team can resume workouts for some players later this week and return to CAA competition next Saturday after missing two games because of COVID-19 issues in the JMU program.
JMU (3-0), the FCS’ top-ranked team, postponed its March 13 game against visiting William & Mary and will miss Saturday’s scheduled game against visiting Richmond. The school announced Monday that football paused activities.
The Dukes’ next scheduled game is March 27 at William & Mary. Neither of the postponed games has been rescheduled.
JMU football used two locker rooms to separate players in an attempt to prevent or reduce an outbreak. Bourne said the Dukes experienced an outbreak in each locker room, with 28 team members affected (12 tested positive, 16 were contact-traced), as of Tuesday.
The problem may have originated in a campus dorm, Bourne said. Most of those infected have dealt with congestion, aches and a cough, according to Bourne.
“It’s very discouraging,” he said. “We have followed principles right now based on what we saw from pro football teams, where they put their team on a pause. They don’t let the [players] back in any of the facilities for a period of three to four days.”
JMU played and won two nonconference games before starting its six-game CAA season. That league season closes Saturday, April 10. The FCS playoffs start on Friday, April 23. The CAA saved Saturday, April 16, as a date for make-up games. Though JMU has two games to make up, Bourne said the first game postponed, against W&M, would likely be prioritized.
“We are very much committed to finishing out the season,” Bourne said. “I feel like it’s the right thing to do for the young men in our program that have worked very hard and trained hard all season, along with our coaching staff.
“I have a hard time believing JMU’s going to be the only institution that’s going to run into a problem in the regular season with missing games.”
Bourne noted that to be eligible for the FCS playoffs, a minimum of four FCS games must be played. JMU has already played three. To become a league’s automatic qualifier, three league games are required. JMU has played one CAA game, a 20-17 win at Elon.
“To me, I still feel like these are very, very reachable numbers for our program,” Bourne said. That, of course, depends on the Dukes recovering and JMU opponents avoiding COVID-19 problems.
“We’re kind of taking this day by day, and game by game, as we move forward,” W&M coach Mike London said Tuesday.