Athletic administration terminates eSports team


Katarina Rothhorn/NW

GOING DARK — The NMU eSports lab in the basement of Harden Hall may be permanently shut down. The team was told they had to shut down operations on Thursday due to lack of financial revenue.

In 2020, NMU opened its eSports lab in the basement of Harden Hall outfitted with 30 gaming PCs and monitors, 13 Nintendo Switches and other gaming accessories. The goal was to create a thriving eSports team at NMU, complete with sports scholarships and recruitment of players. 

On Thursday, April 20, the team was completely shut down.

 “The simplest answer would be the eSports team just got voted on by the athletic administration to no longer continue, and they are shutting down the program,” said Claire Sargent, communications coordinator and former player for the Super Smash Bros. team. “It wasn’t a choice between the coach, it wasn’t the choice between the students. The administration just … brought us into a room and told us that we are no longer allowed to continue.”

The main reason behind this decision was a lack of financial gain from the team Sargent said. The records were showing a net decrease in revenue and a low number of recruits, but Sargent said those numbers were likely not updated or accurately reflecting reality. 

As this decision had no input from the students or coaches, those students at NMU with an eSports scholarship are able to keep it, but no new eSports scholarships will be awarded. This means students on the former eSports team who were being considered for scholarships next semester, like the former captain of the Rocket League team Brady Weller, are no longer able to get their scholarships.

“People who currently have a scholarship will get to keep theirs,” Weller said. “Since the Rocket League team is new, I was told that I would get one next semester. But now I can’t get it without the team.”

For Weller and others, the shutdown of the eSports team means potentially transferring schools where eSports is more established and prominent. 

“I might have to move schools and look for a new opportunity, and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way,” Weller said. “I only came here because of the starting Rocket League team, and it was a good way to get my name out there professionally and now that it’s gone, I can’t do what I came here to do.”

While the team was told the shutdown is not yet permanent, they need to prove they have enough students to create a financially feasible and lucrative team. There has been no information released about what will happen with the eSports lab and gaming equipment if the team is to be shut down permanently.

“We were told we have to come back with a package that shows that we have new students coming in that would support the sport financially,” Sargent said. “If we can’t, then the shutdown is permanent.”

Players like Edward Shifflett, vice president and former player for the Super Smash Bros. team, believe that it is possible to build a thriving eSports team at NMU if given enough time and opportunities. 

“eSports is a continuously growing community and there is no sign of it slowing down,” Shifflett said. “A lot of people are interested in video games and things that are accessible even to people who aren’t athletes.”