URBANA, Ohio — Lakota East senior kicker Gavin Myers was suddenly awakened Tuesday morning by multiple notifications on his phone.
"I just looked over and I'm like, 'Why is everyone keep texting me in Hudl?'" Myers said.
The Urbana University signee quickly learned the reason.
The Blue Knights' coaching staff announced the school was closing after the spring semester and all athletics programs would end.
"I was just super surprised," Myers said. "I was like, 'Dang, I didn't know that was going to happen.' I didn't know the school was in a hole like that."
Urbana University, located about 90 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, is a rural campus between Springfield and Bellefontaine in Champaign County in western Ohio. The NCAA Division II program offered 17 sanctioned sports.
Urbana, founded in 1850, is a branch campus for Columbus-based Franklin University, which acquired it in 2014.
Urbana said in a statement it had experienced low enrollment for many years but Franklin University helped to stabilize that in recent years.
However, the global coronavirus pandemic added a level of stress and uncertainty to Urbana’s prospects that made it impossible to sustain operations, according to the school.
"It just broke my heart," said Lakota West principal Elgin Card, an Urbana University Hall of Famer. "I had such great times there."
Card, a 1993 graduate, was a four-year letterman and starting safety for the Blue Knights. He has stayed connected to friends and former teammates in recent years.
"I know all the Blue Knights that I've played with are devastated right now because I've heard from a whole bunch of them," Card said.
The Urbana athletes and signees have to find homes quickly for next school year in a very short and competitive offseason timeframe for athletics.
Myers said the signees are free to choose another college football program once an athlete receives a release from the NCAA, which is expected sometime soon.
The issue for fall sports athletes is timing as preparations begin for summer conditioning and training.
ScoutingOhio.com director Mark Porter said there may be a few spots available in college football programs but the timing is clearly not convenient.
Area high school coaches are doing their best to help the Urbana athletes during this difficult time. The Urbana football team had at least 10 Cincinnati-area signees from the 2020 class.
"All you can do is try to help them out, try to get on somewhere," Sycamore coach Scott Dattilo said. "A challenge is the obvious one. People are done recruiting for that year. Their scholarships are out so I don't know what that means. I'll probably have some conversations with the kids and their parents and see what we can do."
Urbana linebackers coach Dwight Evans, a 2008 Sycamore graduate, was also previously an Aviators' assistant coach.
There are several other area connections, including head baseball coach Jake Oester, a McNicholas graduate who is the son of former Reds player Ron Oester.
The school said in a statement campus officials will be working with officials at the NCAA and Mountain East Conference (MEC) to obtain guidance on the most effective ways to transition student-athletes who wish to transfer to other institutions to continue their athletic careers.
Several signees and Urbana athletes took to social media Tuesday afternoon to express their desire to continue their academic and athletic careers at another destination.
Princeton senior linebacker Christian Kilgus-Dixon tweeted Tuesday afternoon his recruitment is "100 percent open" and included his phone number and email.
Myers said Tuesday afternoon an Urbana coach offered to help him find another program. Myers is confident he will find another school and has supported his fellow signees during this difficult time.
"We're all in a big group chat," Myers said. "We're talking about where we're going and what to do. Like I've been trying to tell people, 'Just reach out to all the coaches you used to talk to on Twitter and all the other coaches who were recruiting you.'"
Myers said he feels bad for everyone associated with the Urbana football program.
"I feel bad for the coaches as well," Myers said. "They just found out today. It's a horrible thing."