Thursday brings another edition of “Three Downs”–three questions with a writer/media member covering the Charlotte 49ers football team’s next opponent. Charlotte travels to #16 James Madison on Saturday, so we reached out to the Daily News-Record‘s JMU beat writer Matthew Stoss to get his thoughts on the matchup.
1. Mickey Matthews has had much success with this team, winning a national championship in 2004 and taking them to the postseason on a regular basis. What’s his overall coaching philosophy that he’s installed from what you’ve seen?
Mickey likes defense. He’s also an old school type of coach who likes tough players. He’s fiery and doesn’t hesitate to yell, especially during games. On the sidelines, it’s not uncommon to see an assistant coach grab him by the back of the pants and pull him back from a referee. In 15 years at JMU, his offenses have been run-based, and it’s what he prefers to do. This probably goes back to him being an old school sort of guy. (He turns 60 this fall.) But JMU has a quarterback — Michael Birdsong — who can throw, and Madison has built an offense around him. JMU throws it about 45 percent of the time now. In the past, it was more like 30 percent of the time. But Mickey’s teams typically play hard and play disciplined. They’re fast and physical, too.
2. Talk about running back Dae’quan Scott and the impact that he’s able to have on games.
Dae’Quan Scott is an all-purpose back. JMU uses him as a tailback and as a wide receiver. He’s good in space and hard to tackle if he gets free. He’s also returned punts, but JMU took him off that to save his body. He’s 5-foot-9, 215 pounds and very solid. He’s getting some fringe NFL interest. The major deterrent is his size. When he gets going, Scott is more than capable of taking over a game. He did it in the second half against Saint Francis last week. He’s also from Staunton, which is about 30 minutes south of Harrisonburg.
3. There’s been some talk about JMU jumping to FBS in football (1-A). What’s been the overall response around the Harrisonburg community (as well as the student body) in regards to that possible move, and what would be the possible timetable?
JMU is currently studying the feasibility of a jump to I-A. The university hired a consulting firm — Carr Sports Associates — to do it, and the results of the study are expected to be released in early October. A few years ago, JMU was committed to the CAA, but the league has since collapsed, and many of Madison’s peers have left — notably Old Dominion, George Mason and VCU. The league’s membership changes have pushed JMU closer to bolting, and at this point, it’s more likely that JMU goes I-A than stays I-AA.
JMU’s athletic budget ($34.5 million) also is among the highest in I-AA. It’s also higher than many I-A schools, including Northern Illinois, which went to the Orange Bowl last year. Right now, JMU has more in common with the bottom-level schools in I-A — the non-BCS schools — than a lot of the CAA, except maybe Delaware, which also has a 20,000-plus-seat football stadium. JMU’s seats 25,000.
The fans would like to see JMU make the move to I-A. The final decision will come from the school president. It’s unclear, at least to the media, what he’s thinking, but there is I-A support from other JMU administrators. Ultimately, it will come down to money.