Illinois State opts out of remainder of spring season

Illinois State head coach Brock Spack and the Redbirds are opting out of the remainder of the spring 2021 season, the university announced Sunday night in a news release posted online. (photo by Barry Bottino, Prairie State Pigskin)

One day after Illinois State’s football team won the first game of its spring FCS season, the university announced the season was over.

Citing health and safety concerns and mounting injuries, the Redbirds announced the cancellation of the remaining four games on ISU’s spring schedule in a news release posted to the school’s website.

“I have wrestled with this decision for a couple of weeks now, but I feel like it’s a necessary move to protect our players’ health and safety and their ability to be ready come this fall,” Spack said in the release.

The Redbirds (1-3) were hit particularly hard by injuries and attrition on the defensive line this spring. Junior Jason Lewan and redshirt freshman Jude Okolo were both injured on the same play against Northern Iowa earlier this month.

Okolo has been in concussion protocol after the UNI game, while Lewan was deemed out for the remainder of the spring season along with the fall.

Spack said in the release that ISU “suffered two more setbacks yesterday (that) have made it nearly impossible for us to play this week and extremely difficult for us to compete in the remaining four games.”

National FCS journalist Sam Herder tweeted Sunday night that Illinois State is the first team to opt out midseason this spring.

On Saturday, the Redbirds beat Western Illinois, 26-18, at Hancock Stadium.

ISU was scheduled to travel to No. 6 South Dakota State for a game Saturday, then host playoff hopeful Southern Illinois on April 3.

Reached Sunday night, an SIU athletics department spokesperson said the university did not have an immediate comment.

In the ISU release, athletic director Kyle Brennan said: “I fully support Brock and his decision to cut the season short, especially when it comes to the health, safety and development of our student-athletes.”

Illinois State announced Spack and two players will further discuss the cancellation at a Monday news conference.

The Redbirds were also scheduled to host playoff contender North Dakota on April 10 for its Homecoming game in Normal.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference posted the ISU news release on its website Sunday night but did not offer an explanation on whether the remaining teams on the Redbirds’ schedule will receive forfeit wins.

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