CARBONDALE — The Missouri Valley Football Conference will allow its other 10 programs to find a replacement game for Indiana State, which announced it was opting out of the the spring season on Monday, but SIU is going to stand pat for now.
The Sycamores announced they would opt out of the 2021 season after consulting with their medical experts because they were concerned about their players potentially playing 19 or more games in less than nine months. The team had the full backing of the university to play this spring, according to a news release from the school, but is choosing to sit out in order to better prepare for the fall of 2021.
"This is a challenging environment to navigate. I support (coach) Curt (Mallory) and his vision for the Sycamore football program, especially when it comes to the health, safety and development of our student-athletes," Indiana State athletic director Sherard Clinkscales said. "The University has provided us with all the resources needed for a spring season and we were certainly looking forward to games, but the health and safety of our student-athletes is a priority. We look forward to normal spring practices in the coming months as we continue to work toward a full fall season in 2021."
Said ISU President Deborah J. Curtis, "We will always make the health and safety of student-athletes our first priority. I'm grateful to coach Mallory for his leadership and judgement about what's best for his players. We look forward to a successful season of football in the fall."
Indiana State went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the MVFC last year. The Sycamores won their last two games, at home against Youngstown State and at Missouri State.
Indiana State was scheduled to come to Carbondale and play SIU on Feb. 27, in the second week of the eight-week MVFC spring schedule. The 24th-ranked Salukis (1-0) open the spring at home against No. 5 South Dakota State on Feb. 20 at Saluki Stadium. SIU's players have already returned to campus, according to athletic director Liz Jarnigan, and are going through the gating protocols in order to give the spring championship chase a go. The team is scheduled to begin practicing for its first spring season Jan. 22.
Jarnigan said things could change with COVID-19, but as of today, the team will pursue winning its remaining seven Valley Football games in the hopes of chasing an FCS national championship. Playing another team, a non-conference opponent that might not even want to follow the same protocols as the Salukis, in between conference games could jeopardize the health of the team for the most important games.
"I think there's that. I can tell you that we have not talked about any interest in scheduling any additional non-conference games," she said Monday. "We certainly did in the fall, when we had an opportunity to play non-conference games, but now we want to focus on preparing for the most successful conference season that we can."
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