Bob Chesney selected to lead JMU Football as new head coach

JMU News

HARRISONBURG, Va. – James Madison Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne has selected Bob Chesney as the ninth head coach in the history of the JMU football program.

He was awarded a five-year contract to lead the Dukes, who begin next year as a full-fledged member in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Chesney brings 14 years of head coaching experience ranging from Division I FCS to Division III, winning seven conference championships with a career record of 111-46 (.707).

He takes over a JMU program that made a historic transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision, going 19-4 over the past two regular seasons. JMU finished atop the Sun Belt Conference East Division standings in both years with a combined 13-3 conference record, and the Dukes received a bid to the 2023 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl for the program's first bowl game in program history. JMU has also sustained success spanning more than two decades, finishing with at least a .500 record in 21 straight seasons and finishing with a winning record in 10 straight.

"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," Bourne said. "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. JMU football has established itself in short order as one of the top programs in the Sun Belt Conference and in all of FBS football as a nationally-ranked program. We have high standards for all aspects of our program, and I'm proud to hand over those keys to Bob Chesney. On behalf of President Alger, our university Board of Visitors and our hiring committee, I'm excited to welcome Bob and Andrea and their three children to our JMU community. Please welcome them to JMU Nation with open arms!"

"My family and I are excited for this opportunity to join the James Madison family and to lead this football program," Chesney said. "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. I want to personally thank President Alger, Jeff Bourne, Board of Visitors Rector Maribeth Herod and the hiring committee for this opportunity. Many folks in JMU Nation have already reached out with their support. The passion at JMU is unmatched, and we can't wait to be a part of the community in Harrisonburg. Go Dukes!"

Most recently, Chesney spent six seasons as head coach at Holy Cross (2018-23), guiding the Crusaders to unprecedented success with a program-record five consecutive Patriot League Championships since 2019 and an overall record of 44-21.

In 2022, he led Holy Cross to its third undefeated regular season and an FCS quarterfinal berth for the first time in nearly 40 years, finishing #6 in the final AFCA Coaches Poll. HC's stretch run from 2021-23 were the team's best three-year run since the 1989-91 seasons, going 29-8.

While at Holy Cross, Chesney recorded wins in back-to-back seasons against FBS opponents, defeating UConn, 38-28, in 2021 and Buffalo, 37-31, in 2022. During the 2023 campaign, the Crusaders dropped a pair of three-point contests to Boston College and Army West Point.

His 2023 squad featured a pair of Walter Payton Award finalists in quarterback Matthew Sluka and receiver Jalen Coker and a Buck Buchanan Award finalist in Jacob Dobbs. Dobbs additionally was a finalist for the prestigious Campbell Trophy, while Sluka was voted Patriot League Player of the Year.

Chesney is a three-time Patriot League Coach of the Year (2019, 2021, 2022) and twice was named the New England Football Writers Coach of the Year (2021, 2022). He was additionally honored as the AFCA FCS Region 1 Coach of the Year following Holy Cross' historic 2022 season.

Prior to Holy Cross, he was head coach at Division II Assumption College, going 44-16 from 2013-17. A two-time Northeast-10 Conference Coach of the Year, he led the Greyhounds to five straight winning seasons for a program that had posted just two winning records in the 17 years prior to his arrival. Chesney took Assumption to the NCAA Division II playoffs in each of his final three seasons, reaching the quarterfinal in 2017.

He began his head coaching career at Division III Salve Regina, posting a 23-9 record in three seasons at the helm from 2010-12. Chesney rebuilt a Salve Regina program with three consecutive winning seasons after it had gone through eight straight losing seasons. In 2011, he guided Salve Reginal to the ECAC North-West Bowl, and in his final season in 2012, his team reached the New England Football Conference championship game.

Before becoming a head coach, Chesney had coaching stops as an assistant at Johns Hopkins (2005-09), King's College (2003-04) Delaware Valley College (2002) and Norwich University (2000-01).

A native of Kulpmont, Pa., Chesney was a four-year letterwinner as a defensive back at Dickinson College, where he earned his degree in 2000. He was a Second Team All-Centennial Conference selection in 1998 and 1997 and was the 1997 recipient of the team's Vincent Correal MVP Award.

Chesney and his wife Andrea have two daughters, Lyla and Hudson, and one son, Bo.


See this release, and other JMU Athletics news, on the athletics website.

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Published: Thursday, December 7, 2023

Last Updated: Friday, December 8, 2023

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