Nearly three dozen student-athletes from central Ohio who had been competing for Urbana University learned April 21 that the school will be closing its doors permanently at the end of the spring semester.
Urbana, which was founded in 1850 and has been a branch campus of Franklin University since 2014, has 18 sports programs, which competed in NCAA Division II and were members of the Mountain East Conference.
“The global (COVID-19) coronavirus pandemic has added a level of stress and uncertainty to Urbana’s prospects that make it impossible to sustain,” the university said in a press release. “… As a result of this decision, academic programming will be moved to Franklin University, while athletic offerings and on-site administrative services will cease at the branch campus.”
The football team had 10 players from the ThisWeek coverage area on its roster last fall when it went 7-4, including defensive back Micah Tillman from Westerville North and linebacker Elijah Hairston from Beechcroft.
“I was upset to hear about the closing of Urbana,” said Tayon Howard, a Westerville South graduate and linebacker for the Blue Knights who has three years of college eligibility remaining. “The next step for me currently is to reach out to some schools to see if I’m able to join their football program. I’ve received multiple calls and messages from schools and some of them have contacted me back already.”
This spring, the men’s volleyball team was 1-19 when the remainder of its season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Its roster included two players from central Ohio in Watterson graduate and Powell resident Jack Brinkman, a freshman outside hitter, and Gahanna graduate Kurt Klamfoth, a sophomore middle hitter.
Klamfoth is hoping to transfer to a Division I or Division II program.
“I was writing a speech for an upcoming assignment, glanced at my phone and our coach had messaged our team group chat,” Klamfoth said. “I didn’t think much of it at first, but after reading it, I found out my volleyball career at Urbana was over. As soon as I got this news, I called my teammates on the West Coast to check in on them and see what their next move is and where they plan to go. Our coaches told us they would make sure we all landed on our feet in moving forward.”
The softball program also had a large central Ohio presence with six players from the area, including infielder and Pickerington North graduate Mia Smallwood and catcher/infielder and DeSales graduate Faith Strapp, a Gahanna resident. The Blue Knights were 4-6 this spring when their season was canceled.
Josh Lehman, who coached the men’s and women’s cross country teams the past three seasons and served as the university’s strength and conditioning coach until Jan. 31, feels for all the athletes affected by the closure.
“It’s pretty brutal,” Lehman said. “You recruit these kids and you’re telling them and their families that you’re going to take care of them. Everybody who worked there knew about how close the school came to closing a few years ago, but we all honestly believed in the work we were doing and that we were past those struggles. … It’s a crummy situation all around and, as a coach, you feel like you let them down.”
Below are athletes from central Ohio who are listed on rosters of Urbana sports teams:
Wally Jacobs, Bexley
Cam Jenkins, Pickerington North
Zach Price, Delaware
Sa’Dera Johnson, Independence
WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Emilee Skerbetz, Granville
Ben Fitz-Gerald, Reynoldsburg
Elijah Hairston, Beechcroft
Tayon Howard, Westerville South
L.A. Kelly, Licking Heights
Jacob Parker, Lancaster
Nathan Richley, Delaware
Steven Shamhart, Marysville
Micah Tillman, Westerville North
Richard Turnbo III, Pickerington Central
Jonnie Woods, Westerville South
Tyler Smith, Marysville
Alyssa Edwards, Canal Winchester
Brianna Nauman, Thomas Worthington
Sophia Thomas, Jonathan Alder
Alex Drenski, Gahanna
Nehemiah Jackson, Gahanna
Nick Stanisovski, Gahanna
Gavin Stromp, Marysville
Mikayla Kesel, Hilliard Darby
Aggie Livingston, Marysville
Lexi Mattix, Delaware
Mia Smallwood, Pickerington North
Faith Strapp, DeSales
Kylah Swanson, Westerville South
Jack Brinkman, Watterson
Kurt Klamfoth, Gahanna
Mitch Coultas, Licking Heights
Alec Fulwider, Watkins Memorial
Jack Minner, London