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University’s Esports Program Makes Name for Itself in First Season
Alumnus' Gift Helps Transform Facility; Teams Take Home Honors at Tournaments
June 3, 2019
The UT Dallas esports program received national recognition and a new name for its campus facility in its first season. If you don’t see the video, watch it on Vimeo.
Thanks to a $100,000 gift from Daniel Shen BS’10, the facility where The University of Texas at Dallas esports teams train and play is now the Sector 7 Energy Esports Gaming Arena.
Last fall, UT Dallas became one of the few universities in Texas to offer esports — competitive video gaming — as part of its athletics department.
At the May 9 dedication of the esports room, Gene Fitch, vice president for Student Affairs, explained why esports is such an excellent fit for the athletics programs at the University.
Daniel Shen BS’10
“To say that this was the perfect match is probably an understatement,” he said. “Video gaming and UTD go together like peanut butter and jelly, or hot sauce and chicken wings. It was just a matter of time before the vision was realized, and now, here we are. This phenomenon known as esports has found its home at UTD.”
Shen’s passion for video games is reflected in the name of his Plano energy-consulting firm. Sector 7 is a sector in the video game “Final Fantasy VII.”
The alumnus grew up playing video games such as “StarCraft” and “Counter-Strike” with his older brother and went on to play “World of Warcraft” competitively for a few years.
As a gamer himself, Shen hopes his first gift to the University will help propel the program’s success.
“Esports is such a growing industry, and I think it was unrecognized a decade ago — even when I went to UTD,” said Shen, who earned a degree in psychology from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
“To have the opportunity to help develop it at the forefront is something that I want to do, but also, it’s been a big part of my life. Growing up, for me and my family, video games had always been a hobby. At times, it was a job for me to play games. I figured this would be a good opportunity to help with something I’m familiar with,” he said.
UT Dallas esports started and ended its first year with appearances in the inaugural ESPN Top 25 College League of Legends Coaches Poll. The Comets ended the season ranked 20th in the nation.
It was a successful year all around for all of the program’s teams, said Greg Adler, head coach of esports.
Esports at UT Dallas
Tryouts for next season will likely be in the fall. For more information, interested students should join the esports program’s Discord server.
The “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” team won first place in the Collegiate Starleague Southern Division Conference in May, making UT Dallas the top-ranked team in the South. The team will travel to Massachusetts in August to compete in nationals at Shine 2019, one of the largest “Smash” tournaments in the world.
One of the two “League of Legends” teams advanced to the quarterfinals of their playoffs, where it suffered a loss to UT Austin. One of two “Overwatch” teams reached the Sweet 16 in their tournament but lost to Maryville University, the top team in the country.
“The entire season has been extremely exciting,” Adler said. “With ‘Overwatch,’ we are the only school in the entire country to have two teams in the Top 64. We made the Sweet 16, and over 550 schools signed up to compete. We’re in the top 16 schools in the U.S., and while we didn’t win, we played the No. 1 school in the country.”
Adler is looking forward to his and the program’s second year. Now that the players know what to expect, they can work even harder and use their experiences to improve, he said.
“We’ve established in our first year that we’re going to be really competitive and that no matter what games we add to the program, or what we do in the future, we’re going to be able to compete with anybody,” Adler said.