Story by Mike Zweifel

Kevin Reape smiles at the camera.
Kevin Reape is the first head coach of esports at Mizzou. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Kevin Reape is on a new mission. As he sits, he checks to make sure everything is in order. With his headphones and microphone working and monitors at the ready, Reape clicks his mouse and a new game of Overwatch starts.

“I like Overwatch because it is a strategy game that requires teamwork,” Reape says. “There’s 29 characters and 19 maps available for each game, and with two teams of six, every game is different.”

At his peak, Reape was among the top 3 percent of a reported 40 million Overwatch players in the world. With his skill and knowledge of Overwatch, and the video gaming industry in general, Reape was presented a unique opportunity at Mizzou — to be the head coach of Mizzou’s newly-formed esports team.

Mizzou is early to the game, becoming the first SEC school and third Power Five school to join the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

“My goal is to build the best esports team in the country,” Reape says.

Building a program

Putting that goal into action requires recruiting student-athletes from all over the country, space planning for an esports training facility and partnering with other departments on campus, such as Admissions and Residential Life. “It’s been a ‘fun-busy’ experience so far,” he says.

Reape, sitting in front of his gaming monitors, takes off his headphones.
Reape was among the top 3 percent of the 40 million Overwatch players in the world. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Reape is recruiting students who are not only great players but also good students and good teammates.

He’s looking for bright students who are successful in the classroom and have good leadership and communication skills.

“They will be spending a lot of time together training, so we want students who will work together, plus represent MU positively on the stage and in the classroom,” Reape says.

Promoting Mizzou

Reape’s main hobby is also related to gaming, as he streams 15–20 hours per week on Twitch, an online video platform that allows Reape and millions of other gamers to livestream their gaming experiences. Twitch lets people watch and chat with these streams, so the audience can become part of the stream.

His hobby and knowledge of Twitch will help the new esports team.

“We’ll be able to highlight and represent Mizzou to potential students and supporters who otherwise might not know about Mizzou at all,” Reape says of the esports team, which will incorporate Twitch into its play. The team plans to get sponsors and advertisers as well, helping to bring in revenue for the team and the university.

Reape says many students are excited about the new esports team, even if they are not going to be on the team.

“We’ve already had students reach out to volunteer for the team, from promoting the team on social media to broadcasting the matches on Twitch. I think there are a lot of possibilities for Mizzou students to get involved with this team beyond being a team member,” Reape says.

Away from gaming, Reape, who graduated from Mizzou in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, spends time with his wife, Jacqueline, and dog, Chloe, plus reading and going to Mizzou Athletics events.

Back to his next round of Overwatch, Reape succinctly states why this game appeals to him.

“It’s complex and fun,” he says.

For more information about the program, visit esports.missouri.edu.

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