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Area athletes search for new schools

Jacob Lyons moved from his bed in Beloit to his computer, joining his online class Tuesday morning.

Lyons, a former West Branch High School standout, saw a group chat with his Urbana University football teammates was taking place. The players on the chat were commenting about an email sent to all students of the southwest Ohio campus, located north of Springfield.

Lyons opened an email and found out it led to confusion. It said Urbana University was closing after the spring 2020 semester. Urbana has been partnered with online school Franklin University in Columbus for the past couple of years. That online schooling is still available but, according to the email, all athletic offerings and on-site administration at the Urbana campus would come to an end.

“I read it and I thought I was reading something wrong, or not understanding it,” said Lyons, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman defensive end.

“I forwarded it to my dad (Mike). I called him about 10 minutes later,” Lyons said. “‘Am I reading this right? Am I not going back to Urbana?’ He said, ‘Unfortunately, I think you’re reading it right.’ I’m kind of in awe here.”

Chaney football coach Chris Amill was jogging through Mill Creek Park on Tuesday when his phone rang about 10 a.m., and he was informed that Urbana was closing its campus.

Amill had three of his seniors heading to Urbana in the fall on scholarships to the NCAA Division II athletic program — Migel Burgess, a 6-0, 180, running back; Raymond Logan, a 6-3, 180, wide receiver; and KeyShaun Davis, 6-2, 200, linebacker.

“I literally sat in Mill Creek and kept calling, trying to get a hold of people,” Amill said.

Today’s recruiting process, with people abiding by stay-at-home orders, is not as easy as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Coaches are working out of their homes, only getting together through Zoom or other online chats.

“Things are in progress, seeing the ball is moving in the right direction,” Amill said. “I told the guys when I talked to them, be patient. It’s a waiting game. There’s so many different channels that it has to go through. Before you would get an entire staff and they could evaluate film together.

“Now, it’s does the position coach like them? Does the offensive and defensive coordinator like them? Does the head coach like them? How much money should they give them? There are so many different factors. Just kind of being patient and waiting.”

The national letters of intent will be void for those 40 freshman and returning players for Urbana, letting them play for another school without sitting out a year due to NCAA rules.

Amill was hoping to attend the Urbana at Charleston (W.Va.) game on Sept. 26, seeing Marquise and Marquan Herron play against Burgess, Davis and Logan. The Herrons are incoming freshmen at Charleston.

“That would’ve been fun,” Amill said.

On the other hand, it’s been stressful for the Chaney coach — calling around the country, even contacting schools in the Carolinas and Florida.

Amill said there is interest from some schools to have Logan, Burgess and Davis stay together as a group. The Chaney coach has even been in touch with some Mid-American Conference schools and hopes to hear from Youngstown State.

He just wants the best for his players.

“It’s going to come down to the school’s needs, position,” Amill said. “For my guys, it’s going to be a financial thing. I don’t want my boys to go to school, graduate and paying back a lot of loans. If all three of them can get scholarships to go to the same school, great. If they have to split up, it’s going to be what’s best for them, especially this late in the game.”

Logan said he appreciates all his coach has done for him.

“He tries so hard for everyone around him to be successful,” he said. “For him to do that for me, it means everything.”

Davis echoed the same sentiments.

“I’m truly blessed to have coach Chris as a coach, and to know that he really cares about his players on and off the field,” Davis said.

Burgess appreciates Amill’s efforts as well.

“It means a lot how hard he is working,” Burgess said. “It shows that he really cares and has heart, but faith in us athletes to know that we can make it if we put our minds to it.”

Lyons said he is getting help from West Branch coach Ken Harris and Salem coach Ron Johnson.

Lyons said he’s heard from Lake Erie, St. Francis (Pa.), Edinboro, Walsh and Clarion, but will miss playing at Urbana.

“Playing d-line for coach (defensive line coach Matt) Williamson is something I’ll never forget. I made friends that will be lifelong friends,” Lyons said. “Coach Williamson, I give a lot of credit to him where I am as a player.

“Off the field, a lot of credit to him as a man. He didn’t take a lot of crap. You were scared to show up a second late to a meeting. He made you really disciplined. I just give a lot of credit to him and a lot of our coaches, actually. They were real mentors to us.”

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