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JMU moves quickly to find new football coach, hires Holy Cross’ Bob Chesney

Chris Graham
(© Steve Heap – shutterstock)

Bob Chesney, who led Holy Cross to four straight FCS playoff appearances before missing out on a fifth straight berth in 2023, is the new head football coach at JMU, replacing Curt Cignetti, who took the head job at Indiana last week.

Chesney, 46, was 44-21 in six seasons at Holy Cross, including a 7-4 finish this past season, which included two three-point losses to FBS opponents – Boston College and Army.

Across 14 seasons spanning tenures at D3 Salve Regina University and D2 Assumption University, Chesney is 111-46, with a total of eight postseason appearances.

“We were methodical and intentional in casting a wide net to identify the next head coach of James Madison football, and I confidently believe that we found the total package in Bob Chesney,” JMU AD Jeff Bourne said in a statement in a news release announcing the hire on Thursday.

“Ideally, we wanted a proven head coach with a track record of winning football games, both with frequency and against tough competition. We sought someone who would lead our young men to maximize their potential in all facets of life, including their off-the-field pursuits and academic success. We prioritized someone with experience at managing all facets of a modern Division I football program and particularly with ties to the East Coast. We also desired someone who would connect with our staff, would resonate with our fan base and would relish the opportunity to be a JMU Duke. Bob Chesney checks all those boxes and more,” Bourne said.

JMU signed Chesney to a five-year deal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cignetti, 62, was making $677,311 a year under his JMU deal.

I’m not seeing anything confirming what Cignetti will be making at his new job at IU, but we do know that the Big Ten school was paying his predecessor, Tom Allen, $4.9 million a year.

Ostensibly, he’ll make somewhere in the area of what Allen was making.

Cignetti was 52-9 in six seasons at JMU, including 19-4 the past two seasons, as the program made the transition from FCS to FBS.

JMU is 11-1 in 2023, and earned an invite to the Armed Forces Bowl, where the Dukes will face Air Force (8-4) on Dec. 23.

Assistant coach Damian Wroblewski will coach JMU in the bowl game, allowing Chesney to focus on putting together his staff, doing what he can to hold together the incoming recruiting class put together by Cignetti’s staff and working the transfer portal.

“My family and I are excited for this opportunity to join the James Madison family and to lead this football program,” Chesney said in a statement in the JMU Athletics news release. “I’ve watched the JMU football program rise to one of the top in the FCS before then transitioning to the FBS level in truly unprecedented fashion. This program has such rich tradition, and the culture of the program expectations are firmly planted. I understand the responsibility that comes with leading the James Madison football program and am ready to hit the ground running to take it to even greater heights.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].