SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Illinois State Redbirds football team decided to opt out of the remainder of the 2021 season. The school made that announcement on Sunday, March 21. That decision left SDSU without a game for Sat. March 27.
“We are disappointed that we don’t get to play, but I respect coach (Brock) Spack (Illinois State) and his program,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I know he makes decisions for the welfare of his student athletes.”
The Jacks are now getting an off week from playing games, which means a change to the normal routine.
“We’re taking today (Tuesday) off, we’re going to only lift tomorrow and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday, we’re going to do shorter practices, only fundamental,” Stiegelmeier said. “Then we’ll sit down as a team and watch USD vs. NDSU, have some pizza and then get into the game week on Sunday.”
Coach Stiegelmeier and SDSU aren’t the only Missouri Valley Conference coaches who were asked about the Redbirds decision.
“I haven’t talked to Brock (Spack) at all since our game that we played a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure what went into the decision making, but there is a lot of things going on,” NDSU head coach Matt Entz said. “It’s a very unusual or atypical year, and I’m sure they did what they thought was best for them and I hope their aren’t other teams that are out there in that situation. I’m going to worry about us and make sure that we are ready to go.”
“I have a lot of respect for coach Spack and the way they run their program at Illinois State, but the decision that they made, they felt was in the best interest of their program,” USD head coach Bob Nielson said. “From that standpoint, as a member of the conference, I fully understand what they did.”
According to a press release on the Illinois State athletics website, the decision was made to protect the health and safety of the players and ensure their readiness for the upcoming 2021 fall 11-game slate.
Nielson was asked if USD would ever consider an opt-out and he responded by saying, “I think every coach in the league would (answer this the same way), if you ever got to a point whether it was due to a number of injuries, COVID-19, a combination of both that you were in some way, shape or form jeopardizing your team’s ability to play in the fall and I think that is the caveat right now, with regard to serious injuries,” Nielson said.
The Redbirds were set SDSU on Saturday, followed by Southern Illinois, North Dakota and Missouri State.