Virginia AG threatens legal action on behalf of James Madison football

McAfee calls out NCAA for 'dumb' James Madison decision (2:23)

Pat McAfee blasts the NCAA for denying James Madison's petition to compete in postseason football. (2:23)

A law firm engaged by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares on Wednesday sent a demand letter to the NCAA, obtained by ESPN, that threatens legal action if James Madison's "exclusion from bowl consideration in 2023" isn't reversed.

The letter was sent in advance of the decision by the NCAA on Wednesday night to deny James Madison a postseason waiver approval. It asks for a response by noon on Friday.

The Dukes are 10-0 and ranked No. 18 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. They have not been included yet in the College Football Playoff rankings because they aren't eligible for the postseason.

"We are prepared to act on behalf of JMU in the unfortunate circumstance that JMU's request for relief is not timely approved," said the letter, obtained by ESPN on Thursday. "Specifically, JMU is prepared to promptly file a lawsuit in the Western District of Virginia asserting that the bowl ban violates the antitrust and, potentially, other laws."

The NCAA's decision Wednesday effectively ends JMU's chances in playing in a New Year's Six bowl game, as the Dukes cannot be a conference champion and therefore would not qualify. There is a chance that JMU could play in a lower-profile bowl, however, as it could fill a spot if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams.

"The facts here haven't changed regarding JMU," College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday night. "The committee considers all teams that are eligible to play in the postseason, and that's where things stand."

Miyares' office announced Wednesday night the state attorney general office was disappointed in the decision and exploring legal options.

In a statement to ESPN on Thursday, Miyares called the NCAA's decision "extremely disappointing."

"[The NCAA] demonstrates that they, once again, ignore the best interests of our nation's student-athletes," Miyares statement said. "The NCAA has made an arbitrary and capricious decision that has an anti-competitive and profoundly negative impact on student-athletes, JMU, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and collegiate football as a whole."

Miyares also referenced the potential economic benefit to the school, which is a state university.

"This injustice transcends athletics, and should not be allowed to stand," Miyares said. "After repeated warnings to the NCAA, they still refuse to do what is right. Therefore, 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."

The letter sent to the NCAA states that a potential lawsuit would prove an "unreasonable restraint of trade in the market" and cites the Sherman Act and Virginia Antitrust Act. It calls the banning of teams from the postseason during NCAA transitions "unnecessary," from "both a practical and legal perspective."

JMU is in the second year of a transition from the FCS to the FBS and in its second season of full Sun Belt competition in football. If there's no change in the rule, the school will be eligible for postseason play next year.

The letter lays the groundwork for an antitrust lawsuit.

"Whether analyzed under a 'quick look' or full rule of reason analysis, the end result is likely to be the same: the rule is anticompetitive, prohibiting more qualified teams from competing in bowl games to the advantage of incumbents in the market without any procompetitive justification to support it," the letter states.

On Wednesday, after four NCAA committees met and eventually turned down postseason waivers for JMU and two other schools, the NCAA released a statement.

"Requirements for members transitioning into FBS are based on factors beyond athletics performance," the NCAA board of directors administrative committee said in the statement. "They are intended to ensure schools are properly evaluating their long-term sustainability in the subdivision."

The NCAA added that if Division I members don't think the transition requirements are appropriate, the concerns should be addressed through rule changes as opposed to waiver requests.