Intramural sports always draw enthusiastic students yearning for the chance to compete with – and against – their friends while taking a welcome break away from textbooks and tests. This semester has been no different. University of Tulsa students, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, competed in intramural sports, including football, basketball and soccer.
The twist? All the passes, bounces, punts and kicks happened online.
For the first time, TU students, faculty and staff were eligible to compete in esports leagues through a partnership between Campus Recreation and TU Esports. Interested competitors signed up through IMLeagues, which coordinated a two week-long league that gave participants the opportunity to play between four and eight games of whichever league they had selected: Madden 21, NBA 2K, Rocket League and FIFI 21.
League play started Sept. 28, and after all the games had been played and the results were submitted, standings were calculated based on performance and sportsmanship. Playoff brackets were then set, and the esports athletes competed against each other in tournaments to decide the champion. Leagues with enough participation, including Rocket League, even Twitch-streamed the championship matches.
Entering new realms
Emily Howland, the interim director of campus recreation, was excited by the results from the first semester of the new offering. “It gave students a way to connect with others that have similar gaming interests,” she said. “By playing through our intramural league, students had an opportunity to take the lead on communication in having to schedule their own games with fellow participants via email and through their gaming consoles – networking, while maintaining a fun, competitive atmosphere.”
Howland also ensured exciting new developments are coming in 2021. “In spring, we plan on bringing in more cross-platform games, as well as iPhone/Android games, to try to capture a larger audience. We will continue to partner with TU Esports and have playoff games streamed live and would like to be able to utilize their brand-new facility for tournaments when it is safe to do so.”
Duke Schaffner, a senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering, was a captain for the winning Rocket League team. Schaffner commented that, as a student who lives off campus and has a busy life, being able to play games on his own time was a “perk” of TU’s esports intramural league. He added that “mixing the competitive nature of Rocket League with frat and departmental rivals heightened the stakes,” leading up to the commentated livestream for the championship.
On the competition against other athletes from the TU Esports league, Schaffner noted, “it was fun going up against another member of the TU Varsity Rocket League team. Ben (Mushu Pork) formed his own team with Sigma Chi and we battled it out in the finals. And through the intramural season, the Varsity Rocket League team was also able to meet a player who could potentially be a valuable addition to the team.”
For students who missed out on the intramural season, the gaming opportunities door is far from closed. TU Esports hosts a digital information server on Discord, where students can create different interest communities, message one another and share their passions.
By joining the TU Esports server, students can find different video game competitions and events as they are created organically on the server. Scheduled weekly events include a Valorant event every Monday and a Super Smash Bros tournament every Thursday (both are at 6 p.m.).
Even in the midst of a tragic pandemic, play has gone on at TU. Students might not have been able to run around with their friends on a flag football field or game together in Pat Case, but the spirit of esports — along with the robust efforts of Campus Recreation and TU Esports –ensured that all students could connect, play and compete while staying safe.