Truman introduces esports program

The esports team discusses a recent game. The esports team’s new room is in Barnett Hall. Photo by Seth Jarvis.

A brand new esports team is being put together during Fall 2022 to compete against other colleges and introduce another avenue for students to be involved in the University. 

Tryouts for the “Rocket League” and “League of Legends” teams were Aug. 27 and 28 respectively. Seven people tried out for Rocket League Aug. 27 and twelve tried out for League of Legends the following day. 

Jared Young, director of academic affairs operations, explained the process of assembling an esports team for the University, which began during Fall 2021. 

Young said a wide variety of groups across the University, including deans, department chairs, faculty, ITS and other staff members, were all involved in creating the program. They met with people involved in the esports industry, particularly at the college level, to learn about preparing the program at the University. 

“The people who have been involved in creating the esports program whether on the committee over the past year or the folks actually getting the work done in the facility from ITS, to campus planning, to the physical plant, they’ve been fantastic to work with,” Young said. and ”They’ve worked really well together to get that facility built,” Young said.

The esports team playing “Rocket League”. The esports team practices games and meets in Barnett 2209. Photos by Seth Jarvis.

Young said the University was motivated to develop an esports program for a few reasons. With esports becoming increasingly popular, the University wanted to remain up to date with other universities by building its own program. In addition, a survey the University conducted during Spring 2022 revealed a large portion of the student body was interested in an esports program at Truman. Young said an esports program could also be an effective recruitment tool for the University. 

Young said the University could potentially integrate esports with student studies. For instance, esports has broadcasters similar to a football or basketball announcer, referred to as shopcasters, who explain the plays of a game. The communication department teaches journalism, which includes broadcasting, so those interested in the field could have a way to further develop their skills through esports.

Young said the esports program is centered in Barnett Hall. Over the summer, Barnett 2209 was completely transformed into a computer lab for the program to practice and meet. 

Young said the two titles they will be playing are “Rocket League” and “League of Legends.” Once the team is set up, they will compete in a variety of scrimmages during the semester. There will be opportunities for Truman students to watch livestreams of the games.   

Charles McAdams, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said he strongly supports the addition of an esports program at the University.

“Students coming to universities today kind of want and expect some things like this. I think it’s terrific, McAdams said. “For one thing I think it will be a good recruitment tool for us as more and more high schools have esports programs and for students that engage in these kind of programs in high school, well, they’re gonna want to go to universities that have active esports programs.”

Senior Isiah Slater, coach of the “Rocket League” team, has been greatly involved in the Truman esports program, completing tasks such as creating promotional material for the team.  Throughout the summer, Slater and others involved in developing the program visited schools such as Columbia College to see how their esports programs run. One thing they noticed is the games that are free and easy to learn are the most popular games. 

Slater said “Rocket League” and “League of Legends” were chosen as the games of the program due to being in the top four of games selected in a survey sent out among students as well as being free to play.   

Slater said he encouraged students to talk about the new program and reach out to the esports team to show their support.

Senior Alec Mundle, coach of the “League of Legends” team, said he has an extensive background in esports. Mundle coached esports in  high school for eight months. 

Mundle said one of the most helpful parts of developing the team was when program leaders went to the Missouri Scholastic Esports Federation Conference during the summer, where they connected with high school and college coaches at the event. 

“I’m very excited to see the program grow,” Mundle said. “I’m very excited to see how esports does at Truman, and I’m sure that we’re going to be successful.”