Southern Miss’ newly formed esports teams, Eagle Esports, held a signing event Friday, Feb. 21 to recognize its new members.
Through Denny Bubrig, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, the group came to fruition 18 months ago, and is an attempt by Bubrig to branch the university out into the digital gaming community.
“The idea of competitive esports is fairly new in the context of North America and is sweeping the collegiate landscape like wildfire. This involvement has the potential for Southern Miss to be a regional, if not national, leader in the community,” Bubrig said.
About 20 colleges across the country have an esports program, including Boise State University and Georgia Southern University.
Nearly 40 students have joined since open tryouts were held last year, and they are split into five teams, each of whom specializes in popular competitive titles like “Rainbow Six Siege” and “Overwatch.”
Senior computer science major Cameron Thomas heard about the group after his friend, senior computer science major Peyton Berry, received an email about the tryouts. The two are part of a team that specializes in the video game “Rocket League.”
“I see it as an opportunity to meet new people in addition to bettering my gaming and competitive skills,” Thomas said.
“I think it’s cool to be part of something where you get to learn and expand your capabilities, not to mention being a part of something that will become big at Southern Miss,” Berry said.
Bubrig said he is pursuing a leadership role when it comes to training the coaches and other staff that are part of the group to ensure they are capable of performing their required roles.
Campus bookstore employee Isaiah Jones is in charge of the “Overwatch” players, and Jones said the biggest challenge he faces as a coach is making sure that their mental health remains strong.
“As a coach, making sure players’ mental stamina is strong is most important to me given how competitive these types of games can be. At the same time, though, it’s exciting to be part of something new,” Jones said.
At Friday’s conference, Bubrig said that the group is already receiving sponsorships from local businesses such as Five Star Nutrition and The Coca Cola Company.
“The signing day is significant on multiple fronts. It is a public celebration of the commitment students have made to the teams, and it is also a very public opportunity to thank many who have been some of our early partners. And it is a major milestone in working towards making the program sustainable,” Bubrig said.