Midnight In Chattanooga
The game, the team and the dream behind the rise of JMU football
During a five-year stretch in the middle of the decade, the James Madison Dukes emerged as one of the elite programs in FCS football. Behind a confident coach and an established recruiting pipeline, the Dukes steamrolled their way to four playoff appearances, one national championship and a 49-15 record from 2004-2008.
The origins of this run, however, began much earlier in critical moments and decisions made during a long rebuilding effort. Madison football had most recently been marked by poor attendance, young players, mediocrity and tragedy when the 2004 season opened. And yet there also existed a foundation of camaraderie, purpose and talent the building blocks of a successful program. As the 04 season got underway, the backdrop of an embattled coach, a quarterback controversy and a family in pain gave way to thrilling plays, comeback victories, and a historic run that changed the future of the program.
In Midnight in Chattanooga, James Irwin examines the disparity between the pre- and post-championship landscapes of JMU football, giving readers an exclusive look at the pivotal season and game that catapulted the Dukes to the upper levels of the FCS arms race. Fortunate to cover the Dukes throughout the 2004 season, Irwin weaves through a powerful story of a group of men on the doorstep of their first championship, the friendships they developed, the tragedies they overcame, and the community that embraced them.