Big Ten Daily: Former OSU Players Braxton Miller, Troy Smith Attempt to Pioneer School Like IMG Academy

Former Ohio State quarterbacks Troy Smith and Braxton Miller look to build an IMG Academy style prep school in Ohio, John Harrar explains his commitment to Penn State and Illinois coach Bret Bielema says all he can do for ticket sales is win. Here's the latest from around the Big Ten.
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Former Ohio State quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Troy Smith lead a group that is attempting to bid a purchase to the campus of Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio. They plan to turn it into a prep school similar to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

“My uncle, Paul, reached out to me about the acquisition with the campus shutting down,” Miller told Marcus Hartman of the Springfield News-Sun. “It was a great opportunity to make my dream come true to have a school in the Midwest, do something big in the Midwest, to bring sports to the Midwest in that format.”

The school would be named Urbana Prep and Sports Institute and replace Urbana University, which shut down last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campus covers 50,000 square acres and has 22 buildings, including basketball, football and baseball stadiums.

Smith, a 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, and Miller, a two-time winner of the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football, both spent parts of their childhood in Springfield, Ohio, which is about 15 minutes away from Urbana. They're now trying to give back to the youth in the area.

"I think sports in its entirety, when you are genuine and real behind it, it takes care of itself, but we want to dig a little bit deeper into the character issues, the things that help people understand mental health, the ins-and-outs there," Smith said. "It’s okay for you to speak your mind and to be the specific athlete that you want to be or it doesn’t even have to be sports. That’s my reason of being here.”

John Harrar Reaffirms Commitment to Penn State Basketball

Despite spending time in the transfer portal this offseason, Penn State forward John Harrar professed his commitment to the program on The Midnight Domino Show, which is hosted by former Nittany Lion Myreon Jones.

When he was in the transfer portal, Harrar was recruited by some of the top programs in the country, including Big Ten rival Ohio State. Harrar had limited experience with the recruitment process after only receiving two offers out of high school.

“I went in and just tried to figure out the landscape. I was never really recruited for basketball," Harrar said. "I’m just some dude that likes to compete. I was shocked, don’t know what’s happening, just hearing from these schools, I was just trying to hear them out…I’m just a Penn State head, I just love it and that’s why I’m still here.”

During the 2020-21 season, Harrar averaged 8.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game for Penn State. He played in 25 games and made 54.9% of his field-goal attempts. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior is returning for his fifth season with the program.

Illinois Football Coach Bret Bielema on Improving Ticket Sales

The Illinois football program announced plans to allow 100% capacity for home football games in Champaign, and the Fighting Illini football coach Bret Bielema attempted to generate excitement for the upcoming season.

Illinois will face off against Nebraska on Aug. 28, which marks Week 0 in the college football season. Fans will be permitted to attend games, much like many of the programs around the conference.

“To have the chance for the opening kickoff in Champaign, no one else in college football has that opportunity,” Bielema said of the announcement, per Jeremy Werner of Illini Inquirer. “Couldn’t be more excited.”

Bielema enters his first season as the coach of the Fighting Illini after the program was led by Lovie Smith. He will look to instill a winning culture sooner rather than later.

”I think the best thing I can do for season-ticket sales is win,” he said.

Illinois played in just a single bowl game in five seasons under Smith. Last year, the team finished with a 2-6 record, prompting Smith's dismissal.

Bielema has an opportunity to showcase a new-look team in Week 0 against Nebraska. The matchup will be one of the only major games of the weekend, and fans will be welcomed back after a year with limited attendance across the Big Ten.

Past Big Ten Daily Stories

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