No fall Missouri Valley Football Conference games for three Illinois schools

No fall Missouri Valley Football Conference games for three Illinois schools
The Missouri Valley Football Conference announced Friday it will move to spring league schedule (Photo by Barry Bottino)

The Missouri Valley Football Conference, which includes three Illinois FCS programs, announced Friday that it will not hold a fall league schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a vote by its Presidents Council, the conference will play an eight-game, league-only schedule with hopes there will be a Football Championship Subdivision playoff after the season.

Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois are all MVFC members.

“Without question the most important part of our decision-making process was listening to our student-athletes and hearing their feelings,” Jim Tressel, chair of the MVFC Presidents Council and President at Youngstown State University, said in a statement released by the conference.

“What we clearly heard was that they want to play this year for a chance to participate in the FCS Playoffs. It's great to know that they believe we are taking all the steps necessary to keep them safe in the process. All 11 MVFC teams weighed in with their positions on the options we considered, and all thoughts and concerns guided our thinking," said Tressel, a former FCS coach himself.

Both Illinois State and Southern Illinois opened fall camps this week. Western Illinois announced on Thursday that it was extending its summer access period before transitioning into the start of preseason camp. The Leathernecks were to have begun preseason camp Wednesday.

Where do we go from here?

While Friday's decision means no MVFC games, league schools are allowed to play fall nonconference games if they desire.

Although Illinois State lost its season opener against the University of Illinois when the Big Ten decided on a conference-only schedule, the Redbirds are still scheduled to host Eastern Illinois Sept. 12 in the annual Mid-America Classic. The ISU at U of I game will now be played in 2028.

SIU has an Aug. 29 nonconference game scheduled at the University of Kansas. However, that date is likely to change, SIU athletic director Liz Jarnigan said in a release. In addition, SIU and UT Martin have agreed to move their Sept. 3 game to an open date in the 2025 season, according to Jarnigan. The Salukis also have a home game versus regional rival Southeast Missouri scheduled for Sept. 19.

WIU has nonconference games scheduled against North Alabama in Macomb and on the road against Eastern Washington and FBS member Oklahoma State. No decision on the status of those games has been made, according to a tweet by beat writer Scott Holland.

Reactions

ISU head coach Brock Spack told The Pantagraph, "There has been a lot of work put into this through our administration, health professionals, trainers, players and coaching staff. It’s especially tough on players. They haven’t played football in a long time. They’re back and they’re excited to play.

"There are options out there. We’ll see if those options are available to us. We could play nonconference games in the fall. That would be an interesting opportunity if we can do that. But to be quite honest, I’m not sure anybody is going to be playing this fall.”

In an SIU release, head coach Nick Hill said, "We're going to take some time to digest how the league decision will affect our student-athletes and make sure we listen to their concerns. Our players' health and welfare remains our top priority."

The SIU release stated that the Salukis will take several days off to process the schedule changes.

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