Urbana University COVID-19 permanent closure impacts former Mason Comet football players

Rahul Parikh | Sports Editor

Matthew Smith | Staff Writer

On April 21st, Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio permanently closed due to the financial implications caused by the Coronavirus. This abrupt announcement completely caught two former Mason football players off guard. Mason senior Jackson Norman, an offensive lineman who had committed to Urbana and current Urbana freshman Brogan Reed now find themselves not only putting their college football careers on hold but they are also in search of a school to continue their academic pursuits. 

Urbana is one of the first colleges to completely shut down as a result of COVID-19 complications, which takes a toll on the faculty, students, and prospective students who had already enrolled, such as Reed and Norman.

Norman, an offensive tackle, said that the news of the Urbana University closing down came as a shock to both him and his teammates. Norman said it was a normal day in quarantine until his mom broke the news to him that morning. 

“I had just gotten out of bed, when my mom walked in,” Norman said. “She asked me if I heard the news that Urbana was shutting down. It completely caught me off guard. I never saw it coming.”

The news may come as a shock to many, but Urbana’s has had recent struggles with keeping their university open. Reed said that recently a closure almost happened before Franklin University stepped in.

“Franklin University is a school in Columbus,” Reed said. “A few years ago Urbana was bought by Franklin after almost closing. I’m shocked that Urbana is now officially closing, but I think that Covid-19 has really hurt Franklin University’s ability to keep Urbana open.”

With the closure of the school, many athletes now face an uncertain future, including Reed. Now having to transfer, Reed said he has been in communication with plenty of coaches already trying to find the right fit for him.

“It’s only been a couple of days, but I have already started to talk to coaches,” Reed said. “I have some potential places I’m already looking into, but overall I’m keeping my options open. I just want to find a place that is a good fit for me.”

Norman and Reed aren’t the only prospective student athletes at Urbana to have to recommit, and Norman said the college has tried to aid all of its current and future athletes as much as possible with continuing their careers. Norman said throughout all the trouble for the University, they have been very committed to focusing on their players first. 

“All of the Urbana coaches have put the players ahead of themselves,” Norman said. “My position coach reached out to me and said he wants to find a really good home for me to play next year. Every single coach wants to make sure each player finds a new university before searching for jobs themselves.”

For the Urbana athletes, it’s more than just leaving behind the school. Many relationships have been formed, and Reed said he has still been in communication with a lot of his collegiate teammates since the news broke.

“The last few days I’ve talked to my teammates, checking in on them,” Reed said. “Plenty of them are in the same spot as me, just trying to find a new place to play football. It’s too bad but that’s part of it. Everyone is forced to transfer and we are hoping it goes as smoothly as possible.”

Although the circumstances are unfortunate, technology should certainly make this transition much easier for all the Urbana athletes. Norman said that as soon as he heard the news, he got on twitter to open up his recruitment and heard from many coaches within hours. 

“I hopped on twitter right after my mom told me about (Urbana’s) closing,” Norman said. “I just tweeted out my highlights and that I now needed a new place to play college football. In maybe 24 hours around 20 coaches had already reached out to me. I’m glad that now I will have a lot of options.”

Photos by Mia Sweitzer, Tanner Pearson, and Henri Robbins