Bobby Ukrop, one of Richmond’s largest donors during the past several years, has resigned from the university’s Board of Trustees, as first reported by Richmond BizSense.
Ukrop, who graduated from UR in 1969, had served on the board for 13 nonconsecutive years before stepping down at the board meeting on Dec. 7. He has worked for more than 40 years at the Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods and currently serves as the business’s President and Chief Executive Officer, according to the company’s website.
A source close to Ukrop said the decision was made in association with the board’s decision to cut the men’s soccer and track programs to add a men’s lacrosse team — a decision that has been maligned for a lack of transparency. Before the board meeting on Dec. 7, soccer alumnus Bret Myers said Ukrop would present the teams’ cases for reinstatement. The decision was not brought to a vote, and the sports realignment was reconfirmed.
Ukrop said that he would only confirm that he had resigned at this time, declining further comment.
“I’m just focused on selling food and business right now,” he said.
The list of board members on the university website was taken down as of 4 p.m. Thursday.
Soccer alumnus Scott Byrnes, who led a press conference in early November to discuss the administration deception, said he had talked to Ukrop after the December board meeting, but had not been made aware that he resigned until someone forwarded him a link to the Richmond BizSense article earlier on Tuesday.
“When somebody that’s done more for the school than anybody that I can think of in the last three years resigns from the board, that’s a sign of serious problems,” Byrnes said.
While Ukrop is a self-proclaimed soccer enthusiast, track team members, including senior Kyle Ragan, also appreciated his help.
“I am grateful for the service of Mr. Ukrop to the University of Richmond,” Ragan wrote in a statement. “He has served not only as a champion to Save Our Sports over the past few months, but as an advocate and supporter for academic and athletic causes for many years.
“He truly represents the values of integrity, honesty and loyalty that have made the university the amazing institution that it is today. I respect his decision to remain true to his values and not compromise. I would hope that the day will come when these values are once again demonstrated by the university leadership, and Mr. Ukrop would consider returning to the Board of Trustees. This is a major loss for the entire University of Richmond community, [and] I hope that it will cause everyone to take a deeper look at the situation and continue pushing for the truth behind what has unfolded over the past 3 months.”
As for the future of the programs, Byrnes said he and the other soccer alumni were currently weighing their next steps.
“Fundamentally, we set out to save the program number one in the interest of the current players, and that was really the driver,” Byrnes said. “It’s been really disheartening to see that that’s not going to be accomplished unfortunately.
“That’s not to say we can’t turn this thing around and get the programs reinstated at some point in the future, but for the folks that want to continue playing D-I soccer and track, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be continuing at Richmond, and that’s disappointing.”
Freshman Chris Hill, sophomore Nick Butler and junior Zac Brown of the soccer team have already decided to transfer, with others still weighing their options, according to Scott Himelein, a senior on the team.
Byrnes said: “We’re collectively trying to think about this more broadly, about what steps we want to take in light of how we feel the decision was handled by the administration — really what unfolded over the course of the last six months, and what that represents for the university more broadly. Is there anything we want to try to do about that, or do we want to stand down? That’s the decision we’re trying to make collectively as a group.”
Contact staff writer David Weissman at email@example.com