The coronavirus has put an indefinite pause on sports around the country, but the local esports scene is as vibrant as ever.

On Monday, April 27, the State University of New York unveiled the formation of a multi-week esports tournament that will span the entire school system. SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Delhi and SUNY Cobleskill are among the many schools participating, with each having the chance to win a $20,000 prize pool to be used for COVID-19 relief efforts through the #SUNYTogether fund.

“I think it’s a great idea and it gets us fighting for a good cause,” said Cooper Levine, a freshman at SUNY Oneonta and one of the Red Dragons’ team managers. “I think it’s something people need. It’s beneficial to all SUNY schools and the community alike.”

“SUNY Oneonta’s gaming community is strong,” SUCO Director of Student Activities Bill Harcleroad said in a media release. “We’re excited for our students to participate in the first SUNY-wide esports competition and hopefully come away victorious.”

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson announced the launch Thursday, April 23, with Extreme Networks serving as the sponsor of the tournament.

“This esports tournament fosters an engaging and competitive virtual event for our campuses that also raises funding for #SUNYTogether, our philanthropic campaign that supports our students deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Johnson said in a media release. “My thanks to Extreme Networks for co-sponsoring, as well as SUNY Canton – home of SUNY’s first varsity esports program – for graciously accepting my challenge to create and organize this competition.”

Levine said games will be played Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with the first week establishing seeding through round-robin play before single-elimination tournament play during the next two weeks.

The tournament will feature three games: “Fortnite” by Epic Games, “Super Smash Bros Ultimate” by Nintendo and “Rocket League” by Psyonix. Each school is allowed to submit as many as two teams per game, with each game featuring a variety of players. Levine said it’s one-on-one competition for Super Smash Bros, two-on-two for Fortnite and three-on-three for Rocket League.

Each game features a $2,000 prize and a $5,000 grand prize will be awarded to the school with the best overall score.

Levine is one of three team managers for O-State along with Jacob Adler, the president of SUCO’s esports club, and Robb Thibault, the Director of Student Life and Leadership at SUNY Oneonta..

“We kind of just make sure our teams are all set up,” Levine said. “We make sure all of our players are following the rules. I also connect with other managers.”

Levine said the O-State team features 19 players and estimated that 48 schools signed up to participate, as of Tuesday afternoon. Play began Monday.

Because the virus has forced many people to shelter inside for an extended period, the tournament is run entirely through online platforms. Levine said connectivity and communication problems can arise because competitors are geographically separated, but that he feels the tournament is worth some potential headaches.

“We really had a lot of fun, us chatting as teammates,” Levine said. “A lot of fun and a lot of interesting experiences that I wouldn’t have thought to experience.”

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