(MCT) — NORMAL — The ongoing Hancock Stadium construction outside Illinois State football coach Brock Spack’s office window is one sign.
ISU’s first Championship Subdivision playoff appearance since 2006 is another.
Those are among the indications that have Spack believing the Redbirds are progressing toward the level of Appalachian State, the perennial powerhouse that will play host to ISU on Saturday in a 1 p.m. playoff game in Boone, N.C.
“You would love to have that kind of fan following,” Spack said. “Illinois State absolutely could be in that kind of category. We’re making huge strides here.
“(University president) Dr. (Al) Bowman and (athletic director) Gary Friedman have put a lot of time into building a stadium that is state of the art. There has been that commitment here.”
Appalachian State is making its eighth consecutive playoff appearance. The Mountaineers, who won three national championships from 2005-07, have topped FCS in attendance the past seven seasons including an average of 27,964 this year.
“We’re striving to be not a good program, but a great program,” said Spack. “That’s what Appalachian State is. Yeah, you would love to be like them from that standpoint.”
Spack is a bigger believer in the potential of the ISU program than when he first took the job four years ago.
“Our community needs to understand we could be the Boise State of the Midwest if we really wanted to be,” said Spack. “That’s something we need to challenge our entire Illinois State community. Let’s be really special. Let’s fill the stadium and make it a very difficult place to play.
“There is still work to be done, but I think we’re on the right track. I think we can become something very special here.”
Newcomer team: Four Bowl Subdivision transfers and one redshirt freshman from ISU have been selected to the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s All-Newcomer team.
Offensive linemen Josh Aladenoye (Oklahoma) and Jermaine Barton (Miami, Fla.), receiver Phil Dudley (Ball State) and safety Ezra Thompson (Colorado State) were Redbirds tabbed as top conference newcomers.
Aladenoye and Barton are ISU’s starting tackles. Dudley has 27 receptions for 196 yards and a touchdown. Thompson has started all 11 games and has 42 tackles and one interception.
Also named was outside linebacker Alex Donnelly, who has 34 tackles and started four games.
Defensive back commits: Safety Dennis Oxendine of Tates Creek High School in Lexington, Ky., has committed to sign a letter of intent with ISU in February.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Oxendine is a two-star recruit, according to scout.com.