College gamers to coach students in Overwatch event

Esports Tower's Student Scholarship Series is bringing together gamers for a good cause; MAC schools form new conference; Ole Miss Esports drops Rebels nickname.
By: | June 18, 2020

The scholastic esports community has rallied well during the Covid-19 pandemic.

From higher education schools to industry-leading companies, many have pitched in to keep students engaged by hosting live tournaments, charity events and camps.

The creative minds behind these events continue to churn out truly unique experiences, including the latest launch by Esports Tower, an Orlando-based company that helps connect and develop promising players.

Esports Tower and several Florida colleges are teaming up to host a two-day Student Scholarship Series (June 23 and June 30) that will bring together students ages 13-19 to compete in Overwatch to benefit charities Rise Against Hunger and Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s Gamers for Cancer. There will be shoutcasters calling the June 30 event on Twitch with multiple prizes awarded, including $6,000 in scholarships.

But maybe the most fun feature is that each of the teams the students play on will be coached during games by a college or university player from their respective schools.

“It’s open to anybody, and this is a great opportunity for players that haven’t built a relationship with a university to kind of get on their radar,” says David Adams, CEO of Esports Tower. “We have nine Florida-based universities participating. The idea is, they are reaching out to their high school communities and saying, sign up to play in this tournament and choose to play on our team.”

Full Sail University has provided a big assist on the event, and several other schools are set to take part: Florida State, Central Florida, Florida Southern, the University of South Florida, Southeastern University, Florida Polytechnic Institute, Florida Gulf Coast, and North Florida.

Registration is ongoing through Saturday and costs $10 per individual and $60 per team (Overwatch being a 6v6 competition).

Professional Overwatch League team the Florida Mayhem will be offering a coaching clinic for those college volunteers prior to the event. The school with the most social media interaction will also get a day to train with the Mayhem.

Beyond the scholarships, the overall winner of the tournament will receive a signed jersey from the Mayhem. Several other key sponsors have lended their backing to the cause, including eFuse, Varsity Esports Foundation, Kairos Esports, Misfits Gaming and 3D Aim Trainer.

Esports Tower helps foster training for aspiring esports athletes, whether they’re trying to improve their skills to make a high school team, earn a college scholarship or try to go pro. Its approach is to focus on teamwork, sportsmanship, conflict resolution, leadership, communication and the importance of physical wellness and mental health. This process not only helps develop well-rounded esports athletes but also is a key element in recruiting. Well-trained and highly focused gamers that are coached and vetted by experienced staff are more likely to complement existing college programs.

“Scores in specific games often don’t tell you what kind of character these students have, what kind of teammate they’re going to be, how well they’re going to represent the school, how well they play when the lights turn on and the pressure’s on,” Adams says. “The idea is that we’re getting people ready for the next level.”

MAC makes inroads with new conference

When the Mid-American Conference (MAC) recently launched its own separate conference – the Esports Collegiate Conference (ESC) – it raised a few eyebrows across the college landscape. Why would it do that? Why not continue to run all esports under the MAC brand?

There are many reasons, but better scheduling, more opportunities for athletes and less oversight are a few. By having 12 institutions operate under an independent conference, the benefits for both the colleges and gamers are essentially boundless. The ESC can have schools from outside the MAC join. It could also provide the possiblity of adding more curriculum pieces, such as degree programs.

On the scheduling side, it likely will help avoid the last-minute planning that plagues the current structure. By essentially forcing the hand of developers to commit to their timelines, ESC programs can ensure better promotion of their events as well as prepare for postseasons.

One MAC source said it is likely that more MAC schools that don’t have esports will join the new ESC. In fact, Ball State, which has more than 500 club participants, recently committed to launching a varsity program during the fall semester.

“Our expansion into this dynamic domain of esports is another way in which our university is providing our students innovative opportunities to learn and to make connections with their peers and within the community,” said Ball State president Geoffrey S. Mearns.

Ole Miss team becomes first to break with ‘Rebels’ brand

The Ole Miss Esports team became the first program at the University of Mississippi to disassociate itself with the school’s Rebels nickname.

In a post to followers on Twitter, Ole Miss Esports said: “In our continued support of #BLM, we will be retiring all hashtags referencing to ourselves as Rebels and replacing them with new ones to properly align ourselves with our current mascot.”

The current mascot is a Landshark, which replaced the Black Bear in 2017. Prior to that, it had a mascot and logo featuring Colonel Reb, which was removed in 2003.

“If you can alter something to make something seem more inclusive to the people around you, why would you not?” esports president Sergio Brack told the Daily Mississippian.

There have been calls for both Ole Miss and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas  to abandon the nickname Rebels. UNLV recently removed a campus statue of its  ‘Hey Reb’ mascot on its campus, while Ole Miss relocated a Confederate statue from a cental location on its campus.

Playing for Pride event this weekend

Ritual Motion and the Stonewall Community Foundation are teaming up to host “Playing for Pride”, one of largest tournaments to honor and benefit LGBTQ members of the gaming community on Saturday and Sunday. The Super Smash Bros. tournament will feature a $1,500 prize pool for participants. Stonewall Community Foundation works to “uplift the LGBTQ community by mobilizing resources to invest in nonprofits and others through grantmaking.” To date, they’ve facilitated $20 million to LGBTQ organizations. Ritual Motion, which is launching two special-edition Gaming Skins for the event, is a community-driven resource, dedicated to gamer health, wellness and inclusion. Donations to the Stonewall Foundation effort can be made here.

On tap: Virtual Summit and Esports Symposium

SHI, a computer software, hardware and IT solutions company based in Somerset, N.J., is hosting a two-day Virtual Education Summit that includes a dedicated Esports Symposium this week. The event kicks off Wednesday with a panel session on “Increasing Student Engagement via STEM and Esports” and continues on Thursday with sessions from several speakers who also will be featured at the Academic Esports Conference & Expo in October: James O’Hagan from Racine (Wis.) Unified Schools, Josh Kell from Horizon AVL, Joey Gawrysiak from Shenandoah University, and Dr. Katrina Adkins from SHI, as well as a host of others included renowned middle school teacher Chris Aviles of Fair Haven, N.J.

News and notes: Stevenson University takes Valorant crown

The ECAC held its first-ever tournament in the new title Valorant last week and the five-person team from Stevenson University, a private institution in Pikeville, Md., came away victorious. Stevenson outdistanced a field of 213 teams in the Riot Games’ 5v5 character-based FPS game, which is being considered for fall play by the ECAC. The Mustangs scored a 13-8 win over Sacramento State in the final. … HBCU Direct, a marketing partnership that serves Historically Black Colleges and Universities, has launched HBCU Direct Gaming, an initiative to increase participation of alumni, students and friends in gaming and esports. The organization will base the mission around several components: tournaments and player development, education and training, design, research, entrepreneurship, content and game development and youth programming. … Howard Community College in Maryland became the first such CC in the state to formally announce an esports program, which will start in the fall. It has accepted an invitation to join the New England Collegiate Conference. Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont., also will launch esports. The Buccaneers will compete in Rocket League, Overwatch, Magic the Gathering and CS:GO.


Chris Burt is the Esports Editor for University Business and District Administration and the Program Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo. He can be reached at cburt@lrp.com