North Texas Daily

University of North Texas at Dallas wins 2 esports championships

University of North Texas at Dallas wins 2 esports championships

University of North Texas at Dallas wins 2 esports championships
May 05
12:00 2023

University of North Texas at Dallas’ esports varsity team, The Trailblazers, has won two championships in the National Association of Collegiate Esports western conference championship.

While NACE has offered over $16 million dollars in scholarships and aid to students and colleges to help fund esports programs, UNT Dallas’ funding is coming internally from the university, said Kevin Rocha, chief information officer and staff liason.

“I was happy to win after weeks of practicing and competing in games before the playoffs — we previously lost to Southern Arkansas University, so the stakes were a lot higher in this match,”  said strategic communications sophomore Bilal “Dragon” Wahocho said.

The competition was the first of its kind for the university. Before the championship, games were played either remotely or in a room together against a school in another location. However, the finals were held on a stage with LED spotlights and commentary provided by strategic communications junior Colin Taylor. Also present was a crowd of UNT Dallas students.

“I generate excitement,” Taylor said. “A lot of it is educating watchers […] but also trying to explain spawn manipulation, different game modes [and] capturing objectives and map control.”

The Trailblazers won the championships in Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In both games, players compete in various game modes where players fight over objectives until a team obtains three. For Overwatch 2, the team beat their opponent in an “escort” game mode, where one group escorts an object down a set path while their competitors thwart their attempts.

The games are played remotely, with each team participating at their respective university. The Trailblazers are headed by UNT Dallas alumnus Caleb Simmons, also known as “Tech,” who coaches the university’s esports program. Simmons says his coaching pales compared to the already talented group of players, all of whom are already lifelong gamers.

“I’ve been playing video games pretty much my entire life,” information technology junior Brett Boleman said. “It feels really good to see the hard work the team put together since the beginning — it’s just really awesome to see us come together like this.”

Esports director and staff liaison Kevin Rocha was largely responsible for introducing the concept of esports to the university as an organization and a collegiate sport.

“I’ve always been a gamer my whole life — it took a bit to get the powers […] to recognize esports as anything more than a bunch of kids playing video games,” Roache said. “Esports provides a recreational aspect — it provides for our students what they want, which is a venue to get together and play esports. Then, there is the varsity level aspect, where we would have students representing our university against other collegiate programs across the country.”

Players have described the environment as “like a family.” The only requirements to join the team are a 2.0 GPA and to represent the college professionally, according to the UNT Dallas organization website.  Roache cited the comradery students experience while playing.

“UNTD is a family-friendly campus — it’s not just esports, it is an all-around campus,” Simmons said. “We all know each other. We’re always having fun with staff [and] students.”

Simmons and Roache revealed a few future plans for UNT Dallas esports after the championship, including introducing the sport to the YMCA and possible courses esports might help build.

“We want to start offering classes in esports from players to management in the school of business, to communications, to broadcasting to editing — esports encompasses so much that the university offers,” Roache said.

Courtesy Thomas McMillan

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