While Franklin University awaits a decision from the Higher Learning Commission as to whether or not it can officially classify Urbana University as one of its branch campuses, officials from the Columbus-based university have made one thing clear – the Blue Knight athletics program is a top priority.
UU Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher Washington, Ph.D., said he is a firm believer in universities supporting opportunities for athletes who choose to pursue higher education, and UU is doing just that by investing in facilities and looking at ways to expand its athletics programs.
Washington said Franklin University has spent quite a bit of money on upgrading the home to many of UU’s sports programs – the Warren G. Grimes Center.
Improvements to the most well-known facility on campus include a new HVAC system, new flooring in the weight room and a new basketball court featuring the updated Blue Knights athletic logo.
As for current or upcoming facility improvements, Washington said the university is working on installing batting cages at the softball diamond, and crews from The Motz Group are currently resurfacing the football field with a new synthetic surface (the original playing surface was installed in 2006).
“We are also working on putting lights in the stadium,” he added. “Can you imagine what it would be like to have night games in this community? I’m really anxious to see what that could mean not just for our athletic programs, but for social engagement.”
As for the state of UU athletics, Washington said Athletic Director Larry Cox gets him “charged” when it comes to the possibility of expanding the number of sports programs offered to UU student-athletes.
“Larry’s ideas about new sports teams really excite me,” Washington said.
While nothing is set in stone, Washington did say several sports have been tossed around as possible additions like acrobatics and tumbling, track and field and wrestling.
“I’d love to explore the feasibility of these programs and a few others,” he said. “I hear there is a strong wrestling community here with a lot of success at the high school level.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.