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HARRISONBURG — James Madison’s athletic administration saw and heard the fan response Friday after the university announced a 10-year, $3.5 million sponsorship deal with University of Virginia Health System, which will include logo presentation on the court at JMU’s Union Bank & Trust Center, scheduled to open in the Fall of 2020.

Dukes fans were not entirely on board with the idea of having a U.Va. logo on the court, given the Charlottesville university is an in-state rival of JMU. But assistant athletic director for communications Kevin Warner was quick to point out the partnership between JMU, which does not have its own hospital or medical school, has already existed in a big way for years.

“We did go back and forth on what was the right opportunity for U.Va. orthopedics to have some presence,” Warner said. “I’m aware today that fans have had some feedback about putting U.Va. on the court, we were aware of that. That said, they’ve been a significant partner of ours for quite some time. U.Va. Health System, first of all, is a separate entity from the university itself. We haven’t partnered with U.Va. athletics. We haven’t partnered with the University of Virginia.”

JMU has had a partnership with U.Va. Health Systems since 2003. That’s included signage at Bridgeforth Stadium and others athletic venues and U.Va. Health has treated Dukes athletes during that time.

Warner pointed out that in 2016, JMU quarterback Bryan Schor was injured during a regular-season game against Villanova and was only able to return for the Dukes FCS national championship run thanks to treatment from U.Va. that significantly shortened his recovery time.

A similar situation occurred in women’s basketball this season when All-Colonial Athletic Association guard Kamiah Smalls injured her hand in the regular-season finale. Smalls was at one point thought to be out the remainder of the season, but returned to play in the WNIT semifinal run that included a victory over Virginia Tech.

“JMU athletics wouldn’t exist at the level people have come to know it without the partnership with U.Va. Health System,” Warner said.

And of course, the financial commitment is significant. The $3.5-million dollar deal is the largest of its kind in JMU history, even greater than the naming rights for the Union Bank & Trust Center arena itself.

Between the two sponsorship agreements, JMU, through multimedia rights partner Learfield IMG College, will bring in more than $6 million as it tries to increase athletic revenues while also trying to lessen reliance on student fees.

“This is a significant partnership for James Madison Athletics and for our new facility,” JMU athletics director Jeff Bourne said in a statement released to media. “U.Va. Health System has been a steady partner and we are thrilled they valued their involvement with JMU to the extent of such a substantial investment.”

Contact Shane Mettlen at 574-6244 or smettlen@dnronline.com. Follow Shane on Twitter: @Shane_DNRSports

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