Jeff Bourne is in his second decade as JMU’s athletics director, having already overseen a period of dramatic enhancements on behalf of all of the university’s student-athletes and coaches. At JMU, Bourne leads a program that is competitive within the Colonial Athletic Association as well as at regional and national levels and that has positioned itself to continue to play a major role in intercollegiate athletics.
Bourne has overseen processes to ensure the academic, athletic and social success of all JMU student-athletes. In 2012-13, JMU celebrated an 80 percent graduation rate among its student-athletes, compared with JMU’s general student population rate of 81 percent. When Bourne arrived at JMU, the graduation rate among student-athletes was 71 percent and the overall student rate 79 percent. Annual fundraising has improved dramatically under Bourne’s leadership, with an overall increase of more than 400 percent during the past eight years. Student-athlete support services and facility improvements also have been highlights of the past 10 years. He also recently served on the NCAA FCS Football Championship selection committee for four years, including as the chairman in 2013.
JMU enjoys a tremendous academic reputation nationally as evidenced by its continued placement among national and regional publications. For the 16th consecutive year the university ranked as the top public, master’s-level university in the South in the highly regarded annual poll on academic quality conducted by U.S. News & World Report for its guidebook, 2010 America’s Best Colleges.
During Bourne’s tenure more than 1,000 conference academic honors have been given to JMU student-athletes, including CAA scholar-athletes, CAA commissioner’s academic award winners and ECAC scholar-athletes of the year. JMU also has had four student-athletes receive NCAA post-graduate scholarships.
Perhaps the best measure of success is the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. JMU has ranked well above the NCAA minimum standard for each of the program’s rating periods, and no JMU teams have been subject to APR-related penalties. Seven of JMU’s 18 teams had APR scores ranking in at least the 90th percentile of their respective sports in the most-recent APR release, the greatest number reaching that mark among any of the 12 CAA institutions.
Providing outstanding athletics facilities is a primary focus, and JMU will continue to make significant progress in this front during the coming year. In 2009-10, the new Veterans Memorial Stadium complex for baseball and softball was completed; work was completed in summer of 2012 on University Park, including practice and competition facilities for soccer, lacrosse, track and field and cross country; and the $62 Million, 20-month process to renovate Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field finished prior to the 2011 season. The football stadium expansion project increased seating at the facility to nearly 25,000 and featured major enhancements, including private suites and club level seating, improved concessions and restroom facilities, improved lighting, and a new media facility.
Under Bourne, JMU has developed an enhanced volunteer fundraising network and a point-priority system to recognize donor participation and has implemented programs to increase game attendance and address the needs of athletics infrastructure. These efforts have resulted in unprecedented levels of success in fundraising while driving football attendance to all-time records.
Major program enhancements in student-athlete services and academic advising, sports medicine and strength and conditioning have added to the overall quality of the student-athlete experience as demonstrated in annual senior exit interviews and peer program evaluations. Annual evaluation and information data also is incorporated into a strategic planning and reporting process to enhance the organizational structure of the athletics division with the primary focus on meeting the needs of student-athletes and coaches.
“We’re very proud of the accomplishments we’ve had and I am quite fortunate to work with and serve a tremendous group of coaches and a talented support team. We will continue to work together toward the common goals of ensuring the success of our student-athletes in all of their endeavors -- academically, athletically and socially,” Bourne said. “Our goals are to win conference championships and to advance our teams to post-season play while adhering to NCAA and conference guidelines and to graduate our student-athletes.
“We continue to strengthen the infrastructure and facilities of the athletics program,” he said. “Our support centers and athletics personnel are dedicated to providing student-athletes with the best experience possible at the intercollegiate level. We also are extremely pleased with the construction of the Robert and Frances Plecker Athletic Performance Center, which benefits all of our student-athletes with state-of-the-art academic facilities and serves as an entrance and focal point for our football stadium. Other athletics facilities construction that has been recently completed on campus – including baseball and softball stadiums, enhancement of our football facility and upgrades for several programs at University Park -- provide JMU with outstanding competition sites.”
The Plecker Performance Center, which opened in 2005, is the first significant facility project funded primarily through private resources in JMU athletics’ history. The $10 million facility is adjacent to Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field and features support areas for football and areas for entertaining during home football games and for JMU’s athletic hall of fame. Also included is the Challace McMillin Academic Center that benefits performers in all JMU sports programs. Advising and counseling for all of JMU student-athletes takes place at the facility, which also includes an outstanding computer lab and strength training and sports medicine facilities.
Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field, the home of JMU’s football program, has a large electronic videoboard with live game action and video replay capabilities, an outstanding FieldTurf playing surface and an enhanced sound system added in recent years.
Prior to arriving at JMU in 1999, Bourne served in several athletics roles at Virginia Tech from 1986-97 and was senior associate athletics director at Georgia Tech from 1997-99. At Georgia Tech, he supervised finance, marketing and promotions, ticketing, sports information, and radio and television broadcasts and production. He also was liaison to the Alexander-Tharpe fund, the university’s development arm, and administered baseball and golf.
At Virginia Tech, he was associate athletics director during his final two years, and he co-chaired a committee that reviewed gender equity at the school. The committee developed and implemented a plan that brought the school into compliance with federal guidelines and ranked it fifth nationally in compliance.
A Salem, Va., native, Bourne was Virginia Tech’s athletics business manager and then associate athletics director for administration and finance. Bourne received his Bridgewater College degree in business administration and accounting in 1981 and completed his master’s degree in education and sports management at Virginia Tech in 1994. He worked for four years in public accounting and received his certification in public accountancy before moving to Virginia Tech, where he first was an internal auditor and a consultant to the athletic business office. He is a 1994 graduate of the Sports Management Institute Executive Program from the University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California.
The Bourne family bleeds purple and gold. Bourne’s wife, the former Mary Lou Garber, is a Harrisonburg native and Bridgewater graduate. She serves as the Director of Technology Transfer at James Madison. Their children are also engrained at Madison, as son Jason is a 2011 graduate, Kyle is a JMU senior and future daughter-in-law Megan Martin graduated in 2012.