Illinois State Redbirds

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Illinois State Redbirds
UniversityIllinois State University
ConferenceMissouri Valley Conference (primary)
Missouri Valley Football Conference
Midwest Independent Conference (women's gymnastics)
Summit League (men's tennis)
NCAADivision I (FCS)
Athletic directorJeri Beggs (Interim)
LocationNormal, Illinois
Varsity teams19 (8 men's, 11 women's)
Football stadiumHancock Stadium
Basketball arenaCEFCU Arena
Baseball stadiumDuffy Bass Field
Softball stadiumMarian Kneer Softball Stadium
Soccer fieldAdelaide Street Field
Other venuesEvergreen Racquet Club
McCormick Courts
Weibring Golf Club
MascotReggie Redbird
Fight songGo, You Redbirds
ColorsRed and white[1]

The Illinois State Redbirds are the athletic teams that represent Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. Teams play at the NCAA Division I level (FCS in football). The football team competes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while most other teams compete in the Missouri Valley Conference. The fight song is Go, You Redbirds.[2]


Athletics at Illinois State consists of 19 sports, having won 160 MVC league titles.[3]

Illinois State began its athletics program more than 100 years ago. In 1923, athletics director Clifford E. "Pop" Horton and the Daily Pantagraph sports editor Fred Young collaborated to change the university's nickname from "Teachers." Horton wanted "Cardinals" because the colors were cardinal and white (set in 1895–96). Young changed the nickname to "Red Birds" to avoid confusion in the headlines with the St. Louis Cardinals. It took roughly 10 years for Red Birds to become one word.

From approximately 1908 to 1970, Illinois State was affiliated with the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and were charter members. The school, which had already been an NCAA Division I competitor for a decade, left behind its independent status in 1980 and affiliated itself with the Missouri Valley Conference. From 1981 to 1992, Redbird women's teams competed under the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference banner before women's sports were absorbed into the Missouri Valley Conference. Today,[when?] 14 of the 17 Redbird sports compete in the Missouri Valley Conference, with the football team playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, formerly known as the Gateway Football Conference.

Redbird 7[edit]

On 7 April 2015, seven men died when a privately owned Cessna 414 carrying Redbirds men's basketball coach Torrey Ward, Deputy Director of Athletics Aaron Leetch, and five community members and athletics supporters crashed.[4] The group was returning from Indianapolis, where they attended the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Final. The plane crashed in a soybean field outside of Central Illinois Regional Airport in McLean County.[5] The University and Athletics Department memorialized the victims in several ways, including a uniform patch worn by all 19 teams throughout the 2015–16 sports seasons. In addition, a permanent memorial called Redbird Remembrance directly in the heart of the Redbird Athletics.[6]

Sports sponsored[edit]

A member of the Missouri Valley Conference, Illinois State University sponsors eight men's and eleven women's teams in NCAA sanctioned sports:[7]

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Cross country
Cross country Golf
Football Gymnastics
Golf Soccer
Tennis Softball
Track and field Swimming and diving
Track and field
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor

Men's basketball[edit]

Missouri Valley Conference Titles

  • Regular Season: 1984, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2017
  • Conference Tournament: 1983, 1990, 1997, 1998

NCAA Appearances: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1997, 1998

NIT Appearances: 1977, 1978, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017

CBI Appearance: 2014

Women's basketball[edit]

Missouri Valley Conference Titles: 1983, 1989, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2022

NCAA Appearances: 1983, 1985, 1989, 2005, 2008, 2022

Women's National Invitation Tournament Appearances: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

  • During the 2007-2008 season, former Head Coach Dr. Jill Hutchison was recognized for her pioneering work in the advancement of women’s basketball. A banner was hung from the rafters at Redbird Arena in her honor.
  • 2009 Kristi Cirone becomes the all-time leading scorer.
  • December 28, 2009 Kristi Cirone's No. 10 jersey was retired at Redbird Arena.[8]
  • Fell to Iowa in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, in their first appearance under Head Coach Kristen Gillespie.

Women's soccer[edit]

Missouri Valley Conference Regular Season Titles: 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Titles: 2003, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016

NCAA Appearances: 2003, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016

  • 2016: W vs. Michigan (PKs), L vs. #3 Duke (1-3)

First season: 1996

All-Time Record: 225-145-37 (.600)

All-Time Missouri Valley Conference Record: 82-25-11 (.746)

10 Missouri Valley Conference Players of the Year


Missouri Valley Football Conference Championships: 1999, 2014, 2015

NCAA Division I Football Championship Playoffs: 1998, 1999, 2006, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019

FCS National Championship Game

Date played Location Champion Runner-Up
January 10, 2015 Toyota Stadium NDSU 29 Illinois State 27

Bowl Games

Date played Bowl Champion Runner-Up
November 23, 1950 Corn Bowl Missouri-Rolla 7 Illinois State 6
December 4, 1999 Pecan Bowl Illinois State 37 Hofstra 20
December 1, 2006 Pecan Bowl Youngstown State 28 Illinois State 21
  • The 1999 & 2006 the Midwest Region Championship (FCS Quarterfinal) was referred to as the Pecan Bowl
  • In 1999 the Redbirds football team advanced to the Final Four and finished 3rd in the AP poll.
  • Illinois State holds the NCAA Division I FCS record for the most tied football games with 66.[9]


Illinois State's softball team played in the Women's College World Series eight times in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978 and 1981.[10] The team finished as runner-up in the first WCWS in 1969, and in 1973, falling to Arizona State, 4-3, in 16 innings in the title game. On the day of the 1973 defeat, Redbirds pitcher Margie Wright heroically hurled 30 innings in three games. Ironically, for pitching too many innings in one day, a three-woman Illinois sports commission suspended her from pitching in any game in her upcoming senior season and also banned the softball team from post-season play in 1974. Wright went on to play professional softball, followed by a 33-year head coaching career. She coached the Redbirds from 1980–85, followed by 27 years at Fresno State, where she became the first NCAA Division I softball coach to reach 1000 wins and the NCAA's all-time winningest softball coach.[10]: 23–24 

National Championships[edit]


Association Division Sport Year Opponent/Runner-up Score
NCAA Division II Baseball (1)[11] 1969 Southwest Missouri State 12–0


Notable former athletes[edit]


Men's Basketball

Women's Basketball


Track & Field


  • Margie Wright – Former professional softball player, coach for 33 years. NCAA all-time winningest softball coach.[10]: 23–24 

Men's Golf



  1. ^ Redbird Athletics Identity Manual (PDF). November 29, 2018. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  2. ^ "Redbird Athletics - Home of Champions @ Illinois State". Archived from the original on 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  3. ^ State, Illinois (2021-12-20). "Redbird Athletics". CP24. Retrieved 2021-12-20.
  4. ^ "Statement From Illinois State Athletics - Illinois State University". Illinois State University. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  5. ^ Keyser, David Mercer and Jason (2015-04-07). "Plane returning from NCAA title game crashes, killing 7 including Illinois State coach". CP24. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  6. ^ "Illinois State Redbird Remembrance | Memorial". Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  7. ^ "Illinois State Athletics". Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Kristi Cirone Night Set For Dec. 28 - Illinois State University". Illinois State University. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  9. ^ DeLassus, David. "Division I-AA All-Time Wins". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on November 20, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c Plummer, William; Floyd, Larry C. (2013). A Series Of Their Own: History Of The Women's College World Series. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States: Turnkey Communications Inc. ISBN 978-0-9893007-0-4.
  11. ^ "Division II Baseball Championship Results" (PDF). NCAA. Retrieved January 16, 2016.

External links[edit]