Busting Brackets

Mark Byington leaves James Madison to replace Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt

Just one day after getting eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, James Madison head coach Mark Byington is off to take over Vanderbilt, spurning the mid-major for an SEC job.

James Madison Dukes head coach Mark Byington
James Madison Dukes head coach Mark Byington / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In his fourth season at James Madison, head coach Mark Byington brought the Dukes their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013, and the program’s fifth Tournament win, defeating Wisconsin in a 5/12 upset in the first round on Friday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Now, just one day after falling to Duke 93-55 in the Round of 32, Byington is off to the SEC, replacing Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt. 

After coming over from Georgia Southern in 2020, a program he never took to the NCAA Tournament, Byington led the Dukes to a 32-4 record this season and an 82-36 record across his four seasons at JMU. He also oversaw the transition from the CAA to the Sun Belt, winning the latter league’s conference title in 2024. 

With a deal coming together so quickly, one has to wonder when the machinations began. His departure takes the shine off JMU's historic season, whipping the Dukes back into the harsh reality of a mid-major program and likely prompting much of the roster to head into the transfer portal.

Still just 47 years old, Byington will inherit a tough job in Nashville, taking over a Vanderbilt team that went 9-23 last year with a 4-14 record in SEC play. Across his five seasons, Stackhouse never took the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament and only posted a winning record in conference play once, in 2022-23. 

Vanderbilt has not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since Bryce Drew, the current Grand Canyon University head coach, took the team there in his first season, back in 2017. However, Drew regressed over his three-year tenure and was replaced by Stackhouse in 2019. Vanderbilt is taking a big swing on an up-and-comer who has proven he can lead a rebuild. 

Now, after a year of unprecedented success for JMU, a recent addition to the Sun Belt Conference located in Harrisonburg Virginia. The school’s administration will be forced to replace its head basketball coach after doing the same with the football program. Curt Cignetti led the Dukes to national relevance on the football field this past fall before leaving for Indiana. JMU filled the vacated position with Bob Chesney from Holy Cross, and will now begin the search for a new basketball coach.

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