University of Oregon has a sports foundation story that is rivaled by few. Esports and gaming at the UO have carried that energy forward. In the summer of 2012, Gavin Cronkite formed the League of Legends club just three years after the game was released. Although not formally recognized by the UO, a group of students connected and found community through a shared hobby. In 2016, Tim Peckham drafted the by-laws, and the club was officially recognized in 2017. The first club meet following this recognition would spark a catalytic growth rarely experienced by other student clubs on campus.
Where the Esports Program Started
The first meeting of 2017 was held in a small room where it immediately became apparent that the interest in the League of Legends club was bigger than anticipated. Every seat in the room was taken up with a laptop or a computer someone had carried over from their residence hall. At the meeting the club announced they were holding tryouts for a League of Legends team that would compete against other teams at academic institutions, exactly like athletics. Although the club was intended to be for a specific game, it became clear that there were so many more games that the student body was interested in. A more universal gaming club would encompass a large portion of the student body.
Between competitors, enthusiasts, and everyone behind the scenes, esports and gaming serves as a community center home to many jobs and disciplines, making it the perfect system to bring into academia.
Within a few weeks, students wanted to compete in playing Overwatch, PUBG, Call of Duty, and pretty much any competitive title you could think of. The interest didn’t just stop at competing. Students wanted to be coaches, team or community managers, broadcasters, data analysts, marketers, graphic designers, sports and business administrators, and even legal counsel. The League of Legends club was growing and reaching a wide range of the student body, from incoming freshmen not yet committed to graduate students looking to take the club to the next level.
League of Legends club leaders had to deal with growing pains to keep esports and gaming on track to becoming the program it is today. In the fall of 2018, it was officially upgraded to Gaming Club at the UO. While this was a good sign, as it meant the community was growing, it was also a sign that gaming and esports needed a bigger home. Becoming Gaming Club meant that activities weren’t just centered around League of Legends anymore. With limited space available for students to schedule club meets on campus, it was hard for leadership to deliver on a consistent location that would be accessible for computers to be set up and games to be played.
The 2018 Gaming Club President Tanner Peterson and MBA graduate student David Gugliotti met with the club advisor, Erika Swanson, to tackle the growing pains of Gaming Club. After meetings with student leadership and Erb Memorial Union administrative staff, there would be plans to develop Gaming Club into a program housed within the student union called UO Esports. The Esports Program wasted no time moving forward and planned to build a computer lounge featuring 25 high-end gaming PCs, several Xboxes, PlayStations, and Nintendo Switches.
In January of 2020, the lounge opened, the program debuted six varsity teams, and the community was thriving. The line to get in on opening night reached out toward the center of the EMU.
In a little over three years, the Esports Program went from being recognized as a student club about one game to having a PC lounge for competitors and casuals alike, six competitive teams, sponsored jerseys, and so much more.
Since 2017, the students have been connecting through the UO Esports Discord as an online community space. The Discord now has more than 2,100 members including alumni, prospective students, community members, and 15 teams across six titles.
The Esports Program has offered opportunities for students to connect with professionals in the esports and gaming industry creating career connections and learning opportunities that students can apply to their studies.
Connect and Give
The UO Esports Program focuses on our three tenants: career, community, and competition. Your support, by staying connected or contributing financially, will allow us to stay true to our goals of providing a forward-thinking program for students interested in gaming and esports, graduate school in the respective discipline, and finding a career in an industry they love.
UO Esports is one of the fastest growing programs at our university. With the program only becoming an official university program at the start of 2020, it has seen unprecedented growth. With almost 10 percent of the UO student population involved in our program in some way, we have seen tremendous success in student activity and growth.
Lastly, your support for our developments at the UO Esports empowers future leaders. It gives us the ability to fulfill the demand and needs of students to continue their education and graduate equipped with success! Lastly, our developments focus on contributing equally to our students, supporters, community, and industry. Supporting our development means you support innovation, future leaders and help develop a topic that is decades old. Help support this growing industry and passion for millions.