An esports student

Esports: Bringing Everything Great about Sports to More People

With Esports, Michigan Tech is bringing everything great about sports to more people, including competitors and fans. It is an opportunity to build something new that takes what people love about sports—and perhaps leaves some of the stuff we don’t—for something even greater.

The Michigan Tech Esports program, established in fall 2019, engages students from across the University. The Esports team participates in the National Associate of Collegiate Esports (NACE) Collegiate Starleague and several game-dependent leagues, including the Activision Blizzard Collegiate Tournament, League of Legends, and the Great Lakes Collegiate Rocket League (GLCRL) tournament.

Chris Gelety, assistant director of Michigan Tech Esports, shares more about the program.

Chris Gelety, assistant director, Michigan Tech Esports
Chris Gelety, assistant director, Michigan Tech Esports

How do you recruit team members?

CG: There are multiple methods for MTU Esports recruitment. In open tryouts, any Tech student can fight for a spot. We also do traditional recruiting of high school athletes through combines, recruiting events, scouting platforms, and referrals from coaches. Occasionally, a student will reach out and request a walk-on tryout. We have also elevated extracurricular MTU student club teams, such as Valorant, and most recently the Call of Duty team.

In what games does the MTU Esports program compete?

CG: Right now, the team competes in Apex: Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike 2, League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Overwatch 2, and Valorant.

Do individual team members have specific games in which they compete?

CG: Yes. We encourage the team members to specialize, and most of our team members play a specific game. However, we do have a handful of multisport student-athletes.

Connect with Michigan Tech Esports

Check out the MTU Esports Twitch channel to catch the games live. The games are also uploaded to YouTube. Follow the program’s X (Twitter) account to stay up to date on their competition schedule.

Who does the MTU Esports team compete against?

CG: MTU Esports student-athletes compete against many collegiate opponents. Sometimes we play Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference(GLIAC) schools, and there is a GLIAC championship for member schools in February. But each conference for each league or tournament has a considerable variety of teams from all over North America.

How long is the team’s season? When do they compete?

CG: Esports is played year-round, but the main leagues typically run from early September through early November and from late January through early April. However, each game has its own tournament organizers, who run on their own schedules. Combining annual invitationals, tournaments, and off-season leagues, the MTU Esports calendar fills up quickly.

In how many contests does the team compete each year?

CG: In the 2022-23 season, we competed in 350 matches: 146 matches in Rocket League, 32 in Counter-Strike, 34 in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, 45 in League of Legends, 39 in Overwatch, 20 in Apex: Legends, and 34 in Valorant. This season we’re competing considerably less as we focus on building regular-season play within the GLIAC conference. In the fall of 2023, we competed in 77 games.

  • 51%
    of students on MTU’s Esports team are enrolled in the College of Computing

How many Esports student-athletes participate in a single competition?

CG: Most games are five-on-five, or 5v5, competitions. Smash runs a 4v4 crew battle format. Call of Duty is 4v4, as well. Rocket League and Apex: Legends are both 3v3 games.

What is the duration of the typical competition?

CG: This is very game- and tournament-specific. Rocket League matches can be over in under 30 minutes, while Apex tournaments often run the greater part of an afternoon. Ninety minutes is most common, with an average duration of one to two hours.

Are the competitions played in a particular location?

CG: While most contests are facilitated online, the grand finals or the final day of a tournament will be typically hosted in person. The GLIAC championship was hosted at Davenport University last year, and it is being hosted at Ferris State University this year. These in-person competitions are often called LAN events, as the games are played over a local area network instead of the internet.

Do Esports student-athletes engage in physical training?

CG: Yes. Working with the lifting coach, our student-athletes work out twice a week in a general strength and conditioning regimen. The athletics department provides leadership training, psychology training, and general student citizenship training. We are also in the beginning stages of working with the kinesiology and integrative physiology and cognitive and learning sciences departments to conduct research to optimize not only our direct practice and computer actions, but everything that connects the student-athlete to the computer. Things like posture, diet, and mindset matter. As we learn more, we will apply interventions to improve our student-athletes’ performance.

A Michigan Tech Esports student-athlete
A Michigan Tech Esports student-athlete

What’s the difference between Esports and other sports?

CG: Esports are similar to traditional sports in a lot of ways, but there are two major differences: the people and the property. First, the property. Companies own the game. For instance, the game developer Riot Games owns Valorant, and the company has a lot to say about how its intellectual property is used. This provides unique challenges to those who wish to build upon the game’s foundation to create a sport.

Then, the people. Esports catches a different set of people who become student-athletes. While there is some overlap of folks who played both traditional sports and Esports growing up, more often than not, Esports team members are less athletically gifted but still enthusiastic competitors. With Esports, we can bring everything great about sports to more people, including competitors and fans. We have the opportunity to build something new that takes what we love about sports—and perhaps leaves some of the stuff we don’t—for something even greater.

What does the future of Esports look like?

CG: Esports is in an interesting place as an industry. The professional scene is in a recession and things are very uncertain for the short term. I’m not worried. As long as people continue to like competing in video games, Esports will continue. However, even with the uncertainty in the professional world, collegiate and scholastic Esports seem to have a much stronger foundation and brighter future. The year-over-year growth in Esports competition has been steady, so I expect to see more Esports for a long time to come!

MTU Esports Program Accomplishments

  • 2023 GLIAC Champions: Overall Esports (including two first-place finishes and one second-place finish)
  • 2023 GLIAC Champions: League of Legends
  • 2023 GLIAC Champions: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • 2023 GLIAC Runners-Up: Rocket League
  • 2023 NACE Varsity Plus East 4 Conference Champions: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • 2022 Rockstar Energy Collegiate Esports Invitational Mankato Champion: Rocket League
  • 2023 Great Lakes Collegiate Rocket League Runners-Up
  • Spring 2023 NACE Varsity West- Central Conference Champions: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Fall 2022 NACE Varsity Premier East 4 Conference Champions: Rocket League
  • Fall 2022 NACE Varsity Plus East 5 Conference Champions: Rocket League
  • Fall 2022 NECC Champions League Champions: League of Legends
  • Spring 2021 NACE National Champions: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.