UA claims 2nd consecutive nat’l esports championship
Legal News Reporter
Published: January 6, 2020
The University of Akron recently defeated the University of North Texas 5-0 to cap an undefeated Rocket League season with their second straight championship.
The “Gold” team, consisting of students Tristan Roberts, Buzz Krager (“Buzz” is his given name), and Isaac Stecker, went 20-0 for the regular season and playoffs, said esports Director and Head Coach Michael Fay.
The team also has a three-member “Blue” second team, as well as a student manager and a student coach.
The champs were featured on the esports televisions show ELEAGUE, shown on the TNT network Dec. 6. They also made that television show the first time they won the championship in March.
The championship was held at a dedicated, $3 million esports stadium in Arlington, Texas, said Krager.
After the team won, he said that it was “weird but kind of expected. What we didn’t expect was to go undefeated through the season and the playoffs. After we swept, it was ‘what’s next?’ We were just in shock the rest of the day.”
What might also be shocking is that Krager is a high school student—the only one in the league and also a top-10 player in the world during the season.
He said that he plays “any of the new games that come out,” but that Rocket League is his main game.
“Buzz is in the Akron Early College High School program here at UA so while he is in high school, he takes 12 credits of colleges courses at the university which meets the eligibility requirements for Collegiate Rocket League,” said Fay. “He’s a great kid.”
Rocket League is a kind of a vehicular action soccer game, said Fay. Three players control rocket-powered cars that hit balls into the opponents’ goals.
Rocket League is one of five games that the varsity team competes in, said Fay.
Each game comprises a separate competitive league, with national collegiate and professional competitions sponsored by that game’s development company.
The other four games that the Akron varsity competes in are League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and CSGO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive).
Fay said that the leagues themselves help defray the travel and other costs associated with participation in their tournaments.
“All of the teams are doing very well,” said Fay. “They all qualified for the post-season last year, and we anticipate the same this year.”
The Hearthstone team is currently headed to the playoffs themselves, and the League of Legends team is looking “very strong.”
While each game has its own groups of followers and players, Fay said that Rocket League is particularly popular among both competitive teams and the general public because it is an action, non-shooter, non-technical game that can be played on multiple platforms simultaneously.
“Rocket League is easy to understand. Everyone knows about scoring goals. It isn’t like the highly complicated sci-fi games.”
The university sponsors a number of esports teams, said Fay, including varsity, club, and recreational programs. Participants come from every facet of the university’s student population, including graduate and law students. But the varsity teams are composed primarily of students studying engineering or one of the computer sciences.
There is always controversy around equating esports and physical sports, if social media is any indication. But Fay said that students competing in esports enjoy the same kinds of benefits, life lessons and ways to frame life beyond college that any athletes do.
“Competing at a high level is very beneficial for the students,” he said. “The basic skills needed to compete at this level are very comparable to the skills needed by traditional athletes.”
These include dedication to teamwork, communication, leadership skills, and the mental toughness to concentrate for hours at a time.
Beyond that, Fay said that esports offers a field in which the analytical mind can train and strengthen itself.
And, of course, basic competitiveness. The team is feeling good about the upcoming seasons.
Krager is currently finishing up the semester and is on a brief break from the game. But he will be back, along with his teammates, to seek another championship for the university in the fall league that starts in February. He expects another successful season.
“We’ll all be back, and we’re all really good,” he said.
Fay concurs. “Our teams all look very strong,” he said.