Will there be bad blood between Missouri State, Illinois State football on Saturday?

Wyatt D. Wheeler
Springfield News-Leader

Bobby Petrino sounded like he had a lot to say about Illinois State, but he decided it was maybe best if he bit his own tongue. 

Months after Illinois State backed out of the spring season and Petrino said that the Redbirds' head coach should apologize to MSU, Petrino stood down.

"Nah, it doesn't have anything to do with me or their coach," Petrino said. "It's about our players being prepared and playing. You know, my father always told me to 'speak softly and carry a big stick.' So I don't think we need to be popping off about the spring. I'd like to, but I'm not going to."

It doesn't look like this Saturday's game is going to be postponed nor does it appear Illinois State is going to drop out mid-season.

Missouri State (2-1, 1-0) will travel to Illinois State (2-2, 0-1) for a 1 p.m. game Saturday at Hancock Stadium in Normal. 

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Missouri State took on South Dakota at Plaster Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 25, 2021.

Missouri State and Illinois State were supposed to play on two different dates in the spring. The first was postponed while the second one was canceled after ISU dropped out of the season.

"Why would you cut out of the season?" standout corner Montrae Braswell said. "Every team had an agreement to play in the spring. And you opt-out because some of your players aren't playing?"

More:Missouri State football steps up late to beat South Dakota in another wacky finish

Initially, Missouri State was supposed to host Illinois State in the spring season opener. The game was postponed due to "adverse weather conditions, playing field readiness and to ensure a safe environment for student-athletes."

A photo tweeted by MSU men's soccer coach Jon Leamy showed the Bears soccer team practicing on their field in the days after the football game's postponement and got Illinois State head coach Brock Spack's attention.

“It’s hard for me to believe. I really don’t know what to believe right now,” ISU head coach Brock Spack said, according to The Pantagraph. “I don’t get it. That soccer field looked plenty fine for me. I’m not buying it. There should have been a game this weekend. This is about the integrity of football and the integrity of the Missouri Valley. It’s really a bad look.

“We had ice on our field as well, and it’s been taken up very easily. Our administration, our grounds and maintenance people have done a fantastic job here. We planned for something like this.”

A few weeks later, Illinois State announced it was shutting down its football season — before the Redbirds and Bears were supposed to play on their rescheduled date. Illinois State said 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." 

Illinois State football coach Brock Spack talks to his players before a game against Western Illinois.

Petrino took notice.

"I don't know what's going on there and why they did it," Petrino said in March. "I don't have any comment on them opting out or the reasons for it.

"Maybe their coach owes Missouri State an apology for the fact that we couldn't play a game because of snow and ice and that he tried to pop off that we had some other underlying reasons — which is totally wrong. Other than that, I don't have anything to say about them."

Adding on to that, when Missouri State won its final game of the spring season at Plaster Stadium, all of the Missouri Valley Football Conference team flags flew in the south endzone — except for Illinois State's.

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Spack, Illinois State's head coach, has his regularly scheduled media availability on Tuesday. We'll see if there will be an apology or if Spack decides to add some fuel to whatever flame there might be.

Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at wwheeler@news-leader.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.