Student Success: Mizzou Esports Moves Virtual

First varsity esports program in the SEC is experiencing significant success, including a national championship

From the Desk of William Stackman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Although many of our student clubs and organizations have had their years cut short, Mizzou Esports is staying active. 

“When the university transitioned to remote learning, Mizzou Esports worked hard to maintain the program from afar to provide engagement opportunities for Mizzou students,” said Kevin Reape, General Manager of Mizzou Esports. “Keeping esports going strong while we are remote also helps keep morale high for our players and fans.”

The creation of Mizzou Esports was announced in 2018 and the organization began participating as an officially sanctioned, varsity activity for students in August 2019. The team has been incredibly successful, with a .71 win percentage in the inaugural year. Scholarship players for Mizzou Esports compete in Overwatch, Rocket League and League of Legends.

In its first year of competition, Rocket League won the NACE Rocket League Championship in Atlanta, Overwatch was one of 12 teams to be invited to compete in the Tespa Varsity Invitational, and League of Legends competed in the Midwest Esports Conference this spring semester, traveling to universities in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri for regular season matches.

Picture of the National Championship trophy for Mizzou Esports

Mizzou Esports was the first university in the Southeastern Conference to commit to a varsity program on campus. Currently, 21 students receive some form of scholarship to compete for Mizzou Esports, and during the past academic year, over $150,000 in scholarship value was awarded.

The students have continued to be successful in competition from their homes. Mizzou Overwatch recently competed in the NACE Overwatch Spring Cup (streamed here) and defeated the University of Jamestown and Messiah College — without dropping a game in either match — to begin the series 2-0. 

Picture of Jackson Vickers, a member of the Mizzou Esports Overwatch team, practicing at the team's facility in Center Hall in February. Vickers is now practicing and competing from home.
Jackson Vickers, a member of the Mizzou Esports Overwatch team, practicing at the team’s facility in Center Hall in February. Vickers is now practicing and competing from home.

Mizzou Rocket League is competing in the EGF Power Series, streamed here. Mizzou defeated the University of North Dakota and Wichita State University to begin this series 2-0 as well. Rocket League is also competing in a NACE Spring Series and the CRL Spring Series. Several of these shorter competition series were created because of the unexpected regular season cancellation, according to Reape, and have enabled students to continue competing together.

The Mizzou Esports rosters have moved back home, and the facility has been closed since March 19 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, remote competitions and practices have continued for all of the players who receive scholarships. Reape says that students meet virtually several times each week to practice, compete and provide support for each other. 

“The change to remote learning has certainly impacted our student’s lives, but collegiate esports is continuing and providing a consistent and stable involvement opportunity for these students as they are self-distancing from home,” Reape said. 

Mizzou Esports has been active in more than online gaming. The MSI computers in the training facility are assisting with COVID-19 research, working with Folding@Home, an organization that “performs biomedical research using the computing power of volunteers.” 

Picture of The Mizzou Esports Team practice facility in Center Hall Oct. 28, 2019. Sam O'Keefe/University of Missouri
The Mizzou Esports facility currently is empty. While students are away the computers are being used for COVID-19 research.

Reape says that UM System President Mun Choi called on the league to “support retention and recruitment of our students, support the university’s response to the public health crisis and other engagement activities.”

Mizzou Esports will be hosting a virtual Super Smash Bros. tournament on Thursday, April 30, open to all Mizzou students and fans. Anyone interested in the tournament can learn more here.