Life is looking up again

DeQuan Render looks on as the Kentucky Christian University men take on Milligan on Jan. 15. Beside Render is KCU photographer David Bennett.

Another year of football is not guaranteed, but a chance to finish school is major blessing

By John Herndon,

GRAYSON, Ky. — Everything seemed to be looking up for DeQuan Render last fall.

He was on track to graduate from college in May. A defensive back on the Cincinnati Christian football team, he was giddy that the Eagles had recorded their second win of the 2019 season, a 24-16 Mid-South Conference triumph over Union College. 

In the season opener, CCU had defeated Warner University 20-17. “That was surreal,” Render recalls with a smile. “I hadn’t won a game since I was in (junior college). It really felt like our Super Bowl. It was surreal and a big relief because we overcame so many obstacles and worked so hard last summer.”

While a 2-6 record in late October would turn no heads, at CCU, it was a sign that things were on an upswing after the program had been on the losing end in all 33 games since first taking the field in 2016. 

And, after a week off, the Eagles were getting ready to travel to 17th-ranked Reinhardt, just north of Atlanta, on Nov. 2. But everything changed the Monday before when the CCU Board of Trustees announced the school would be closing at the end of the semester.

“We had been to practice that day, then heard (about the closing) at dinner that night,” Render says. “We were heartbroken.”

While there was much sentiment to play the final three games, CCU officials decided to cancel the remainder of the season two days later, according to a media release from the Mid-South Conference. 

A senior, Render was sure he’d played his last game — “To be honest, at that moment, I thought I had” — but he still had to find a place to finish his degree. 

DeQuan Render, right, poses with his longtime friend, Kobe Brown, a former Cincinnati Christian basketball player who is also enrolled at Kentucky Christian University for the spring semester.

While it’s not clear if he will be on the but Render has found his way to Kentucky Christian University, ironically the team he was supposed to play against in his collegiate finale. Several schools invited him to enroll but he says, “(KCU) accepted all of my credits. Other schools didn’t.”

That means he is still on track to graduate in May.

It helps that a longtime friend, Kobe Brown, is playing on the Knights’ basketball team and that much of Render’s family, including a young son, are in Cincinnati, just two hours away. 

While he was listed as a senior at CCU and played in eight games, Render holds to a glimmer of hope that he can be on the field again. “The coaches here (at KCU) and other universities are trying to work something out that I can come back,” he says. “The plan is to graduate in May but if God opens a door, I will come back to play.

“I am extremely thankful. I know my life could be worse. Playing the game of football, I know that any down could be my last down. I am thankful that I am able to walk and talk and breathe.

“I am extremely thankful to be in school.”

KCU becomes new home to many displaced CCU students

It might not be possible to paint a detailed picture of where students displaced by the closure of Cincinnati Christian University moved on to continue their education. 

CCU’s letter announcing the closure listed 12 schools as potential “teach-out partners” but added that since the school was regionally accredited, credits should transfer. The letter was clear that different schools had different program requirements and students could be required to take more classes. 

While many students remained in the Cincinnati area at one of the 17 other schools in the Greater Cincinnati Collegiate Connection or enrolled in Central Christian College of the Bible’s ministry program, some moved two hours south to Kentucky Christian University.

It’s not surprising, since KCU’s programs are similar to those offered at CCU and both have the same heritage as being supported by the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. While the schools were longtime rivals on the athletic fields, there was a great amount of mutual respect between the two. 

Like many other schools, KCU not only accepted credits but tried to at least match scholarship money that students were receiving at Cincinnati. 

“We reached out as a sister school and as a teachout program,” says KCU athletic director and football coach Corey Fipps. “When the university closed, we essentially honor those kids’ credits and scholarships and help those kids graduate on time. For us, in football, what we did was I sent a bus up there and we brought down about 35 kids to a game to watch one of their games when their season was canceled. 

“We prayed with those kids and talked with those kids and tried to encourage them that it was a bad situation but not all is lost if someone wants to help you. Many of the institutions throughout the region wanted to help. Many of those kids just wanted to find a home.”

It’s not yet clear if any football players will eventually transfer from CCU to KCU, but it has been estimated that over 50 students moved southeast for the 2020 Spring Semester.

“This was a chance for those kids to get back in a family and finish things on their terms in a Christian environment,” Fipps continued. “It’s a chance for them to be with people who will love them and want to see them be successful. 

“The kids we have acquired from CCU have been the most grateful kids we can find. It has been amazing.”

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