Spring football certainly in jeopardy for state’s FCS programs
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As with all aspects of daily life, the prospects of spring football practice for the four Illinois Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs are very much up in the air because of COVID-19.
Last Friday, the Missouri Valley Conference announced that all intercollegiate competitions, including MVC championships, have been canceled through the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Though the Missouri Valley Football Conference is somewhat a separate entity, the likelihood of spring football going the way of the NCAA calling off winter and spring sports would not be a surprise. Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois are all members of the MVFC.
A day before, the Ohio Valley Conference Board of Presidents announced that member institutions were suspending athletic-related activities including all competition, and formal practices until further notice due to the COVID-19 public health threat. Eastern Illinois is an OVC institution.
SIU did manage to open spring ball Feb. 26 and hosted its annual pro day last week for scouts to test and meet with Saluki players eligible for the April NFL Draft.
Illinois State was scheduled to begin its spring practices today. However, assistant athletic director/communications Mike Williams told Prairie State Pigskin that the Redbirds have pushed back the start date to March 23. ISU also canceled its pro day, which typically brings three or four NFL teams to Normal.
“Many of the NFL teams aren’t going out on the road right now,” Williams said. “Usually the Bears come down, but they aren’t attending this year.”
James Robinson, Illinois State’s star running back, and Jeremy Chinn, SIU’s standout safety, each attended last month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois were scheduled to open spring camps in the coming weeks. What happens next remains to be seen.
“This is a very fluid situation,” said Rich Moser, EIU associate athletic director.
Prairie State Pigskin spoke with second-year EIU head coach Adam Cushing last week. The former Northwestern assistant was very cognizant of much larger issues than football being at the forefront of decision making.
“There’s a number of ways that you look at it going, so we’re trying to respond rather than react. We talk about that in a football context, but it’s the same way here. Rather than react emotionally or overreact, we’ll take our time and thoughtfully respond with the best information we have,” Cushing said.
In a coronavirus-related matter, the NCAA placed an immediate ban on in-person recruiting for coaches, and the recruiting dead period will be in place until at least April 15. Schools have also been advised to suspend any official or unofficial campus visits with recruits.
With Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordering all Illinois schools closed by Tuesday and pro sports leagues at a standstill, the likelihood of spring football seems doubtful.
- Barry Bottino contributed to this report.