Student-led esports tournament a success with help from UD alum

Campus-wide eSports Tournament a success, photos courtesy of Matt Hilts.

Jacob Mantle
Contributing Writer

In a year of social distancing, it was challenging to build community the traditional way students and faculty are used to.

UD and the Department of Health and Sport Science created a bridge for community building through esports. 

The university kicked off its first campus-wide eSports Tournament that includes Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers, NBA 2K21 and Call of Duty: Warzone on March 1 with leadership from students in Sport Management, UD esports clubs, and Connect E-Sports. 

Planning for the tournament began in the fall by students on a volunteer basis and the initiative was finalized as a part of the 2021 Spring Student Activity Planning Group — the same group that brought the ice rink to Stuart Field. 

“Because of the pandemic this year, a lot of traditional sports programs have been suspended,”said Dr. Haozhou Pu, an assistant Sport Management professor at the Department of Health and Sport Science.

“But our students still like competition and ways to connect with each other in our community.”

A 15-student committee was in charge of organizing, planning and executing this event and secured partnerships with multiple local businesses including R-Taco, Penn Station, UD Bookstore, Red Bull and Connect E-Sports, a UD alum owned esports center located in the heart of the Oregon District.

The committee also received support from the Office of Experiential Learning and Center for Student Involvement.

 Mary Baldino, the owner and founder of Connect E-Sports, was thrilled to assist UD launch a tournament on campus. 

“Dr. Pu reached out to me after he saw the news of our opening in Downtown Dayton,” Baldino said. “At the time, he didn’t even know I was an alum, but rather an esports business that could aid in the university launching esports on campus.”

Joseph Armen, a junior sports management major, is the social media and NBA 2K21 coordinator for the tournament. 

“Joining an esports tournament is a great way to get into a competitive field,” Armen said. “It’s something fun to do with friends and it’s more open — anyone can do it.”

There are two esport clubs on campus, Rocket League and Supersmash. The tournament planners said that this tournament may kickstart an esport varsity team.

“This can lead to even an official esports program on campus,” Armen added. 

Matt Hilts, a sophomore electrical engineering major, signed up to play Rocket League with a friend and roommate. 

Photo of Matt Hilts playing Rocket League.

“I’m a pretty casual player,” Hilts said. “I started playing over winter break and I’m a Silver III — so not too great.”

Although players may not be pro-gamers, playing esports and in the tournament is a great way to connect with friends. 

“We’ve [Hilts and his friends] been playing rocket League for a while, just as a way to stay in touch with our friends who are not on campus or can’t hang out due to COVID,” Hilts said. “So, when my friend, David brought up the fact that they were having a tournament we all wanted to sign up and play.”

Armen, Baldino and Dr. Pu all hope the tournament will be back on campus next year, especially given the success of the tournament so far. Almost 200 students are in the Discord chat, the online community where announcements and scheduling is configured between teams.

Games and scheduling are casual. According to Armen, students are given a week to complete their match. These can be watched on the official tournament website and Twitch. 

Championship rounds for Super Smash Bros and Rocket League are expected at the end of March while NBA 2K21 and Call of Duty: Warzone championships should be early-April. The prizes include gift cards and t-shirts resembling intramural champion shirts. 

“I would say that for anyone looking to join, you definitely don’t have to be great at the game just looking to have fun and play like me and my friends did this year,” Hilts said.

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