NORMAL (WREX) — After a spring and fall that brought about a lot of uncertainty for the Illinois State football program, the Redbirds have a roadmap in place for the upcoming Spring 2021 season after the Missouri Valley Football Conference announced its eight-game conference slate on Thursday set to being in late February.
“It’s exciting to have a light at the end of the tunnel,” ISU head coach Brock Spack said. “There have been so many unknowns for all of us the last past several months, but having a direction set forth by the NCAA and the MVFC gives our players and staff a goal to look forward to. We are excited to have this schedule set for what should be a very exciting and interesting spring for all of us in the FCS.”
Illinois State will play the same matchups as the previously announced Fall 2020 schedule. The sequence of games, however, is different as the model follows a "Southern Start" with early-season games played either at domes or at institutions in the southern-most part of the league footprint. Typically, MVFC schools would not play more than two-straight games at home or two-straight games on the road, but it will occur three times next spring due to facility conflicts at some sites.
ISU will now open the season with three out of its first four contests on the road, beginning with a February 20 opener against nationally ranked UNI. Another road trip the following week at Missouri State on February 27 will make way for the Redbirds’ first home game at Hancock Stadium on March 6 against Western Illinois. The first half of the MVFC slate for the Redbirds will wrap up March 13 on the road at defending national champion North Dakota State.
The second half of the schedule will begin with back-to-back home dates against new MVFC member North Dakota (March 20) and South Dakota (March 27). ISU will then travel to Terre Haute, Indiana, for its last road contest of the season against Indiana State on April 3. A bye week will follow, before the regular-season finale at home on April 17 against Southern Illinois.
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the NCAA Board of Directors approved NCAA Division I fall championships to be played in the spring as outlined by the Division I Council. The FCS playoffs will feature 16 teams, and the bracket will be announced on Sunday, April 18. The 16-team field will be feature automatic bids from 11 FCS conferences and an additional five at-large selections. The title game will be played on either May 14-15-16 in Frisco, Texas.
Start times and the league's television schedule will be announced at a later date.