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Esports ‘Legends’ Team Enters Spring Ranked No. 8 in ESPN Poll
Jan. 28, 2019
UT Dallas launched its esports program last fall. This spring, coach Greg Adler and Comet players are providing an inside look at the sport and the competitions in an occasional video series, which begins with this first episode. If you don’t see the video, watch it on Vimeo.
Spring is when competitions heat up for collegiate esports teams across the country, and The University of Texas at Dallas is kicking off the semester with an appearance in the inaugural ESPN Top 25 College League of Legends Coaches Poll.
“It’s great to see the team get some initial recognition from its success from last year, but we definitely do not want to stop there. The team wants to finish the season as the collegiate champs and will always push to be the best it can be.”
UT Dallas is ranked No. 8 in the poll, which was released Jan. 16 and is the first of its kind in college esports. ESPN gathered responses from a group of more than 40 college coaches in the U.S. and Canada — including UT Dallas esports coach Greg Adler — to craft the rankings, which will be updated every other week.
“It’s great to see the team get some initial recognition from its success from last year, but we definitely do not want to stop there,” Adler said. “The team wants to finish the season as the collegiate champs and will always push to be the best it can be.”
The UT Dallas esports program launched last semester with two popular, multiplayer online games: “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.” The players practice with one another and compete against other universities.
More than 300 collegiate teams compete in the College League of Legends regular season, which began earlier this month. The Comets are in the South Conference. Conference playoffs will take place in March with each conference champion and four at-large teams advancing to the College League of Legends Championships, which will start May 23 at the LCS Arena in Los Angeles.
“Our team last year won the southern region and got into the top eight,” Adler said. “This year, we’re rated No. 1 in the southern region before the season has begun, so the expectations are high.”
There are more than 300 teams competing in Tespa’s “Overwatch” tournaments for the spring that began earlier this month with regional and national matchups. Tespa is a North American collegiate esports organization.
During the fall semester, which serves as a preseason with smaller tournaments and exhibitions, the “Overwatch” teams went 12-6, while the “League of Legends” teams went 4-2 overall.
“Overwatch” and “League of Legends” players train and compete online in the 24-seat room in the Student Union. The room features four 80-inch-screen TVs for match viewing, office space for coach Greg Adler, Alienware Gaming PCs and customized gaming chairs.
In their first official collegiate competition as a varsity sport in September, the “Overwatch” teams advanced to the top eight at OP Live Dallas — with only one practice under their belts. Sixteen universities competed in the collegiate “Overwatch” tournament hosted by the Dallas Fuel and Team Envy.
The “Overwatch” teams also competed in Tespa’s Overwatch Collegiate Championship, which took place over the entire semester.
In November, the “League of Legends” teams placed second and third in the esports tournament at the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo. Also that month, both the “Overwatch” and “League of Legends” teams attended the Esports Stadium Arlington’s Kickoff Series. The “Overwatch” teams placed third and fourth, and the “League of Legends” teams placed first and second.
Culture on Campus
Esports, the 14th varsity sport at UT Dallas, is housed in a state-of-the-art space in the upper level of the Student Union. Each game has an A and B team, with a total of 10 “League of Legends” players and 13 “Overwatch” players. Additional students serve in assistant coaching and analyst roles.
Adler said the students are eager to compete at a high level and represent the University by playing games they love.
“We’ve had tons of students who aren’t necessarily ranked high enough to be on the team, but they still love being a part of it, whether it’s in an analyst role, or watching all of our streams or just getting involved in general,” Adler said. “They just want to be a part of it. That speaks to the culture and the interest of esports across the board here.”
Eric Aaberg, a freshman business administration major and the esports program’s assistant coach, said the best part of his job is seeing how closely the program interacts with the University community.
The program hosts watch parties and other on-campus events. Practices and competitions are livestreamed on Twitch, a popular online service for watching others play games.
Aaberg recalled seeing fellow students cheering and showing their support with posters in the stands at one tournament. While the team focuses on competition, he said they also aim to connect with the gaming community on campus.
“UT Dallas has a student base that’s more ‘techy,’” he said. “It’s a little nerdier, a little more introverted. Esports helps students because gaming is a great way for them to come together and meet one another.”