After already being delayed from a fall 2019 debut, esports was expected to become a varsity sport this spring. As the semester opened though, Marquette Athletics was unable to find a corporate donor. The esports community will have to wait for the program’s advancement until at least next fall.

University President Michael Lovell previously announced in January 2019 that it would be “fairly easy” to find a sponsor to make Marquette Athletics the first Division I athletic department to have varsity esports or competitive video gaming.

Patrick Glogovsky, the esports club president and senior in the College of Communication, said the club is still going to compete and represent Marquette. The club is still just a club, but it has great support and an incredible opportunity to blow up in the future, Glogovsky said.

“It’s kind of ‘same old’ for us because we just do what we do as a club team. We’ve been doing this for three years now, and we know what we have to do as a club,” Glogovsky said. ” The fact that it’s not a varsity sport yet is disappointing, but I’m not, like, in anguish over it. I know the players are more disappointed than I am because I just focus on the club.”

The team has been unable to find a corporate sponsor so far, according to associate athletic director Scott Kuykendall.

“We have been reaching out to companies regarding potential sponsorships for several months and that continues,” Kuykendall said in an email. “While we have had interest, we have yet to secure a sponsorship significant enough for us to move forward with the construction of the facility necessary to house a varsity Esports program. It’s our hope to have identified a partner by the start of the 2020-21 academic year. That is our goal right now. ”

However, the lack of sponsorship confuses Glogovsky.

“It’s very odd to me that we’re struggling to find a sponsor so much. For Marquette University, I don’t think it should be as hard as it’s been, so that’s disappointing to me,” Glogovsky said. ” We started gaming and esports at Marquette, so I would like to see it explode and take off.”

Riley O’Brien, the club’s vice president and a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, echoed Glogovsky’s sentiment when he first heard the news.

“It was disappointing. I understand that obviously, it’s important for them to find a sponsor and be able to pay for everything,” O’Brien said. “It was only disappointing because my understanding was that if it wasn’t going to be starting this fall, it would be this semester but now that’s not a thing. At a certain point, I feel like it’s just getting pushed back more and more,” O’Brien said.

Esports member and a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences Joshua Fendry-Gill was also upset with the decision to wait until next semester.

“It definitely kind of sucks. I remember reading a few articles about it and seeing the concept for the new gaming room they were going to set up. I was definitely excited for it. I know for a while we didn’t hear any news about it, so I kind of started to have doubts later on, and, once I found out, I guess it was a little bit of a letdown,” Fendry-Gill said.

Kuykendall said once the program finds a sponsor, Marquette will begin to build a facility. The facility would be open to all students, with set hours dedicated to the varsity players.

“A program becomes ‘varsity’ when an institution begins recruiting players to campus to participate on the team,” Kuykendall said. “Once a funding source is identified to supplement the construction of the playing facility, we will move forward with the hiring of a coach and identifying team members, who could already be on campus or interested in attending Marquette in the future. ”

With the program’s starting date being pushed back, people like O’Brien and Glogovsky — who are both seniors and the two individuals who helped bring esports to Marquette — will not be able to see the transition to a varsity sport or the creation of a new facility.

“Having a physical space would be the easiest way to visualize the success that we’ve made and that the club has had,” O’Brien said. “That would have been huge, and that would’ve been a physical marker to say, ‘Hey, we’re the reason (esports) is a thing.’ It would’ve been nice to see something come to fruition, given it’s my last year at Marquette.”

Kuykendall said that despite the program not achieving varsity status this semester, the team still represents Marquette.

“We have partnered with the club team for the past two years to represent Marquette in events sponsored by the BIG EAST Conference,” Kuykendall said. ” Those events have occurred online and included League of Legends and Rocket League and this December we sent a team to NYC to participate in a Rocket League tournament. While we don’t have a varsity team, Marquette has still been represented. ”

Glogovsky said the program has come a very long way, from having only six members attend the meetings at the club’s inception to this semester when over 100 individuals attended the club’s meeting, Glogovsky said that since it was his senior year, he was disappointed but was happy to see the progress.

Though both seniors are graduating this spring, O’Brien said what matters is what is to come from their work over the past four years.

“At the end of the day, it’s more about the intangible thing that we created, the seed we’ve planted in the administration,” O’Brien said. “I’m looking forward to seeing 10, 15 years down the line where Marquette esports is developed and what will happen at that point. ”

 

This story was written by Bryan Geenen. He can be reached at bryan.geenen@marquette.edu.

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