Former Ohio State quarterback joining bid to purchase closed university property in southwest Ohio
June 14 - Braxton Miller of Springfield and former Ohio State quarterback is part of a group interested in buying the former Urbana University campus and converting the facility into a prep school.
His former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith would also be part of the company along with Paul Miller, Braxton's uncle.
The school Braxton Miller compared to a Midwest version of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida would be called Urbana Prep and Sports Institute.
"My uncle Paul contacted me about the campus shutdown takeover," said Braxton Miller. "It was a great opportunity to realize my dream of having a school in the Midwest, doing something great in the Midwest, and bringing sport to the Midwest in this format."
The IMG Academy began as a tennis academy in 1978 but has grown into a training ground for top athletes with teams competing in numerous sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, soccer and lacrosse. It sits on more than 600 acres and includes boarding school for sixth through twelfth grade children, as well as year-round camps and training activities.
The school has produced senior tennis and golf players, as well as highly recruited soccer and basketball players, who have attended colleges across the country.
Urbana University was in operation from 1850 until the last year when it was closed by Franklin University, which bought the school in 2014 and ran it as a branch campus. Franklin cited the declining enrollments and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when announcing the closure in March 2020.
Urbana competed in Division II of the NCAA sponsoring 21 teams, including soccer, football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and wrestling, and the school recently upgraded some of its sports facilities.
The campus spans more than 50,000 square feet and includes 22 buildings including dormitories, a theater, and unused land.
"Having something like this that already has all the facilities we need was a great idea, a great opportunity for us to jump on it and try to attack the process of starting our own school," said Braxton Miller.
He spoke enthusiastically about the potential of the project, but added that the deal is still ongoing.
"It's not quite up to date, but we're in the process of making it a reality," said Miller. "With the acquisition of the campus (and the opening of the school) there are many things in between, and we take our time with it. We cross our Ts, dot our selves and make the right decisions about acquiring something like this in order to have our own preparatory school establish."
CBRE, a commercial real estate company handling the sale of the campus, declined to comment on the story.
Franklin University spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio said the campus is still for sale.
"Although there was great interest in the property, no contracts have been signed at this point," said Mercurio.
Braxton Miller grew up in Springfield and played at Wayne High School before playing at Ohio State from 2011 to 2015.
He was fifth in the Heisman Trophy picks in 2012 and won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football for Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten that season and again in the '13 season. He was also twice conference attacker and quarterback of the year and freshman of the year.
A shoulder injury forced him to switch to receiver as a senior, and he was a Houston Texans pick in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Haunted by next-level injuries, he spent time with the Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cleveland Browns Carolina Panthers before calling it a career.
Outside of the field, Miller now lives in Dublin, Ohio, and focuses his time on his Charg1ng company and raising his 8 year old son Landon.
Smith, who spent the early part of his childhood in Springfield before moving to Cleveland, won the 2006 Heisman Trophy and numerous other awards when he led the Buckeyes to a second straight Big Ten championship and an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
After four seasons in the NFL and two seasons in the Canadian Football League, he divides his time between Columbus and Cleveland.
Now he is looking forward to giving something back by attending the planned preparatory school.
"Coming out of nowhere, achieving something and then having a turbulent time in between and then understanding why times were turbulent now, I want to give back to the children," he said. “I think that's the most important thing. Sports in midwestern Ohio will take care of itself. I think the sport in its entirety, if you are genuinely behind it, it takes care of itself. But we want to dig a little deeper into character issues, the things that help people understand mental health, the particularities. It's okay for you to speak up and be the particular athlete you want to be, or it doesn't even have to be a sport. That's my reason to be here. "
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