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Kicking Through COVID, Indiana State: Sycamores only team to opt out of spring slate

A continuous look how Missouri Valley Football Conference teams fared through the pandemic.

Indiana State head coach Curt Mallory said not playing last spring was the hardest coaching decision he's ever made. Crystal LoGiudice / USA TODAY Sports
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FARGO — Forgotten, but not gone. That probably best describes Indiana State heading into the 2021 fall season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Sycamores were the only team to opt out of the spring season, citing too many games in one calendar year was risking the health of its team. But they’re back — and will bring one of the more veteran teams in the conference.

They may not have played, but nobody really left, either. The Sycamores have an uncanny 50 players in either their fourth, fifth or sixth season of school. Of the 25 seniors eligible to come back, 23 made the commitment.

“We’re all anxious to get back to playing football, which has been a long time,” said head coach Curt Mallory.

Indiana State’s last game was Nov. 23, 2019, when it handled Missouri State 51-24. The Sycamores were initially on board with the postponed fall season, but made the decision to opt out of the spring in January.


Mallory called it the hardest decision he’s made in his coaching career.

“When we made the decision, it was the best decision for Indiana State and where we were at,” Mallory said. “We felt like it was the best thing for the future of the program.”

They did go through an extended spring football season with an emphasis on weight training. The team had 100 players in the spring and lost only one.

“We saw some good gains,” Mallory said. “On the negative side, we haven’t played football. We haven’t played in a game.”

At least the Sycamores will get going this fall before anybody else in the Valley. They play Eastern Illinois on Aug. 28 in the “Week Zero” game and already began practice this week.

Like Illinois State, the Sycamores didn’t get much respect in the Missouri Valley preseason team with no first or second team selections, despite wide receiver Dante Hendrix being a first team selection in 2019.

Hendrix, offensive lineman Isaiah Edwards, defensive lineman Inoke Moala and safety Michael Thomas were all honorable mention picks.

ISU will have to find a quarterback. Junior Kurtis Wildeman played in nine games in 2019, completing 116 of 169 passes. Senior Anthony Thompson transferred from FBS Northern Illinois.


The Sycamores also got an interesting transfer in junior receiver Harry Van Dyne from Minnesota.

“We’re looking forward to having him step in,” Mallory said.

Here's a look at the schedule for the Kicking Through COVID series:

July 30: Illinois State

Aug. 1: Missouri State

Aug. 2: North Dakota

Aug. 3: North Dakota State

Aug. 4: Northern Iowa


Aug. 5: South Dakota

Aug. 6: South Dakota State

Aug. 7: Southern Illinois

Aug. 8: Western Illinois

Aug. 9: Youngstown State

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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