Illinois State, Western Illinois to continue football series in 2024

By Kevin Kelley -

The Illinois State Redbirds and Western Illinois Leathernecks have agreed to continue their longstanding football series in 2024, both schools have announced.

Illinois State and Western Illinois are both current members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC), but Western Illinois will be departing next summer to join the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). The Leathernecks’ football program will compete in the Big South-OVC Football Association, which is a partnership between the Big South Conference and the OVC.

The two schools met for the final time as conference mates on Saturday at WIU’s Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill., with the Redbirds coming out on top, 34-18.

“We are excited to continue our longstanding series with Western Illinois in 2024,” ISU Interim Director of Athletics Dr. Jeri Beggs said. “The continuation of this series as part of our on-going non-conference scheduling makes a lot of sense for everyone involved. I know our coaches and student-athletes will enjoy the rivalry continuing, as I’m sure our fans and alumni will as well. These two football programs have storied traditions, and I know we are all glad this piece of those legacies will continue next year and into the future.”

Illinois State and Western Illinois will next meet on the gridiron in September 2024, presumably at ISU’s Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill. An exact date was not announced. The two schools are also looking to “continue the series for several years in the future.”

“This is a great in-state rivalry which we want to continue, as both our schedules would allow,” Western Illinois Director of Athletics Paul A. Bubb said. “While our schedules do not allow us to play every year, over the next 12 years we will face each other six times.”

Illinois State and Western Illinois first met on the gridiron in 1904 and have played every season since 1923. Despite the loss on Saturday, the Leathernecks still hold a one-game advantage in the series, 52-51-3.

UPDATE (Sept. 15, 2023)

Illinois State will host Western Illinois on Sept. 14, 2024, according to a copy of the contract obtained from Western Illinois University via a state public records request.

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