Four weeks ago, the glimmer from my eye may have disappeared just as sports did from Illinois State University’s campus.

Anticipation fell lifeless from the sky when it was announced that zero athletic events would take place this fall.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I was truly sad. No offense to my teachers, but all of my desires and hope went to covering Redbird sports this fall. As the wait that had begun in March was set to continue, a sudden appreciation was met while covering a recent story of mine.

The story I am referring to is "A tribute to a classic Midwest rivalry: ISU vs EIU." This project took a while to piece together, as my prior knowledge on the subject was subpar at best. A challenge was presented in finding the right people to talk to on this topic, and I managed to find way more sources than I bargained for; but that was OK.

The near dozen of former and current sports information directors, coaches and media members who revealed their experiences and memories helped me recognize the importance of not only the Mid-America Classic rivalry, but also filled a void that had been lacking in my life for awhile now. 

Without Ted Schmitz and Mike Williams, I wouldn’t understand the true meaning of this rivalry. As both men spoke candidly sharing their stories, I couldn’t help but continue to be drawn closer. Schmitz finding time on both sidelines allowed for an envious perspective, while Williams captured recent years of great games and celebratory moments. Both men had stories that could go on for days, many that allowed me to understand the times during their respective time periods associated to the two teams.

ISU and Eastern Illinois University coaches Brock Spack, Adam Cushing and Adam Gristick gave me an insight to the importance of the rivalry. Eastern may be down in the all-time series, but each coach made it amply clear that this game is looked forward to by each side on each year’s schedule.

Without the countless memories spoken of by Bill Lair, Dave Kidwell, Tom Lamonica and Roger Cushman, the major moments and dominant streaks would all be voided in my mind. From Darrell Mudra to Andy Fladung, I value the stories shared by these men.

This story may have never been pursued without a friendly nudge from General Manager of The Vidette John Plevka, as we walked past Hancock Stadium on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in August. I may have never stumbled upon the great 108-year history of this special rivalry without the EIU alumnus' pitch. .

To all those listed above who were able to lend a hand in the research that went into digging this fascinating rivalry up, I thank each and every one of you. Lacking sports here in the present allowed for me to cherish the rich stories sharedSo, whether the next game is a 28-0 blowout, or a tight-knit double overtime classic similar to 2012,, you can count on me tuning into the next edition of the Mid-American Classic game in 2021.

JAKE FOGAL is a Sports Editor for The Vidette. He can be contacted at Follow Fogal on Twitter at @jfogal5

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