Columbia College offers both a pristine education and a path to Esports. Being one of the top 2 teams making it to the League of Legends College Championships, Columbia College seems to have already set their sights onto collegiate Esports.
After the College Championships finals match, InvenGlobal had the opportunity to sit down with Columbia College's Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Esports, Bryan Curtis. Byran gave insight on the growth of collegiate Esports and Columbia's view on supporting students with the passion for competitive gaming.
Below are Bryan Curtis' responses.
¤ Could you quickly introduce yourself, please?
Yeah, sure. My name is Bryan Curtis. I am the Assistant Athletic Director at Columbia College, and I am also the Director of Esports.
¤ How has Columbia College viewed Esports as a whole and also on how the school supports College scene?
We are the fourth school to offer scholarships for Esports in the country. We have kind of seen the Collegiate Esports scene grow over the last few years. It is literally exciting to see that we were number four into seeing 70 other programs with scholarships. It is all stuff that we are excited about. We believe it will continue to grow. The big schools and the power 5 conferences are going to jump in. Overall, we are going to see a boom in Esports growth. I believe it is something that is beneficial for athletics and something good for the students. It is an opportunity for them to do something that they are passionate about. They are also getting a great education at the same time. It really is a win-win for everybody involved. It has been really exciting to be apart of it.
¤ What are some of the goals you have set for the program which you want to achieve in the next year or 5 years etc?
Just continued growth. We have one game title at the moment. The only game that we compete in is League of Legends. We are aiming for our group to maintain how they are competing at a high level since last year. Even last year in the inaugural season, we had a very successful campaign. To continue to see that kind of growth in competition and academically is what we are really pushing with our players. Making sure that they put their focus and energy in games into academics. I believe it is really important. It is a great opportunity for them to come to college and get a great education while doing something they love.
Eventually, we will get into some other game titles and see where the next wave of collegiate Esports competition is going to be. We aim to jump in there and see what areas can be competitive as well.
¤ What are some of the games you are looking into other than League of Legends?
Right now, we are putting all of our energy and focus into League of Legends. This is due to the fantastic collegiate scene and what Riot is doing for the scene itself. We are also focused on building our name. We are definitely interested in games such as Overwatch and Fortnite. Fortnite, for example, has recently been gaining a lot of support. A lot of schools are handing out scholarships to Fortnite players. Of course, you have other classic games such as Hearthstone. There are plenty of options out there. It is a lot of fun to watch the growth of those as well.
¤ How did you originally get into Esports? Did you transition from traditional sports or was it more of a hobby turning into a job?
I have been at the athletic department at Columbia College for the last 10 years. Our administration actually changed 4 years ago when our President, Dr. Donald, came on board. At the time, we were talking about what to do during the inauguration week. One of the things we talked about was a video game challenge. We set up a LAN tournament on campus, and he offered to buy textbooks to a student for a year if he beat Dr. Donald in Maden. Of course, the student beat him really badly. He ended up buying textbooks for the student. But, we had a really good turnout. There was a lot of energy in the room.
After, Dr. Donald challenged us to find if there was a way to reach out to our students through video games. I was on a committee in looking into new ideas. One of our ideas came from what I saw online on Robert Morris’ Esports program. This was kind of what we sent back to our President and proposed it. Dr. Donald was completely on board and supportive. He said, “Alright. Start our program for us.”.
I was not familiar with the scene at all. I did not know much about League of Legends. It has been a learning process for me, but it has been really exciting. I was torn on how massive the scene actually was, how many people were playing it, and even more on how many people were watching it.
¤ As with anyone who manages or directs an athletic program, you need to really immerse yourself into the sport and the community. Have you played a lot of League of Legends?
That is the first thing that I did when Dr. Donald asked me to put this whole thing together. I went to my office and installed it on my computer. I was not very good, and I am still not very good (laughs). I have had a couple of players, Hollywood in particular, sit down with me at one of our tournaments out in Wichita and gave me a few bits of pointers. Overall, I play little but not very much. I do enjoy watching it. I am able to learn more about the game because I am able to watch all of these competitions and travel with the team to the tournaments. It has been very enjoyable. That is for sure.
¤ Lastly, is there anything you want to say to the aspiring students and/or players who want to be apart of Columbia College’s amazing Esports program?
Whether you are a Senior in high school or a Freshman, you have to focus on your academics. You have to get those grades up and get yourself admitted into these colleges that offer such amazing programs. Specifically for our program, we have a lot of great things we can offer. We have a state of the art gaming facility on our campus. We believe that really differentiates us from the rest of the pack. Also, we have a great scholarship opportunity for talented players.
Anyone interested in being apart of our program can go visit our website: Columbiacougars.com. There is a spot to fill out a questionnaire just to express your basic interest, academics, basic background, and in-game information as well. This is a great way to reach out to us and to our coaches. We will see that email and hopefully get in touch with you that way.