Nicholls State University is about to create a new team that will compete against the likes of LSU, Mississippi State and Florida State.
The newest Colonels will make up Nicholls' first collegiate esports team, which will compete against other universities playing popular video games in a team format.
The team consists of five players and a coach, and Sunday they will meet with Nicholls President Jay Clune to iron out the final details.
Discussions Sunday will include guidelines for the team structure, a space for training, finding sponsors and fundraising.
Colonels esports has been in the works for a little over a year, said Elizabeth Layton, the team’s coach. Layton, a librarian at Nicholls, said when the Faculty Senate was approached about forming an esports team about a year ago, she got involved immediately.
“I just shot my hand up because I’ve been playing video games since I was five years old," Layton said. "I remember playing Golden Eye on, I think it was the Nintendo 64. I watch streamers, I’m a huge gamer, my brother is a huge gamer, my spouse and I. I mean since COVID, that’s been our date night.”
The current five-person team has already competed in Call of Duty tournaments. Other esports games include Rocket League, League of Legends, Fortnite and Super Smash Brothers.
One goal for Sunday's meeting is getting a training area for the teams, a dedicated space with computers and monitors that would allow other people to watch the games being played. Currently, the teams use the library as a temporary practicing space.
The school has screens and keyboards but will also work to raise money for the $2,500 computers for the team's use. This, said Layton, is going to revolve heavily around Give-N-Day, Feb. 18 through March 2, a major fundraiser for the school.
Professional esports tournaments have exploded in popularity, and cash pools for winners can run in the tens of millions of dollars. Cash prizes are also sometimes awarded at the collegiate level, where the largest such prize is $150,000.
Call Of Duty is a first-person-shooter, where teams of four compete in one of three game modes: Hard Point, Control and Search and Destroy.
Hard Point is a standard game of King of the Hill, where teams fight over a location on a given map. In Search and Destroy, one team is seeking to plant and defend a bomb, while the opposing team is seeking to defuse said bomb. Control is the newest game mode, said team member Scott LeBoeuf.
“In Control, there’s two points that you have to capture or defend based on the sides and it switches each round,” LeBoeuf said. “You have 30 lives on each team, but every time one of your teammates dies, that costs one life.”
Esports teams are not affiliated with the NCAA or traditional athletic conferences, but the Colonels will compete in the “CCL,” or the College Call of Duty League.
The team already has plans for a Call of Duty Team B and has recruited potential members, but they will not be officially on the team until the fall semester. The second team is important, LeBoeuf said, because when teams practice, they try to avoid opposing teams learning their strategies. By having a second team, the Colonels can all practice against one another, improve and keep their strategies in-house.
Layton said the activity has the same sort of long-term educational value as athletic programs. Players not only compete with the potential to become professional esports athletes but also to learns skills that can help them beyond college in their chosen fields.
“We have an administrative side too," Layton said. "I have students, much like an organization, I have a president of the organization who is also my assistant coach, a social media organizer, an event coordinator. These are soft skills that these students are learning that if they wanted to go into these fields, they could add it to their resumes.”
The first Nicholls esports team consists of five members: LeBoeuf, Andre Blanchard, Daniel Parker, Jayden Oncale and Hunter Bourgeois.
LeBoeuf also helps Layton with administrative functions when she is busy with the university’s library. LeBoeuf, who is studying business administration, recently met with Nicholls' marketing director to get the team’s uniforms finalized.
“I had to meet with marketing and all to clear our logo, to make sure I’m not getting copyright strikes and stuff like that,” he said.
The team just had its first official games at a recent tournament and lost both. These matches were against Mississippi State University and Louisiana Tech in two separate matches. Other teams playing in the tournament included LSU, Florida State, Arizona State and the University of California.
LeBoeuf did not compete but watched the matches and said he thinks the Colonels will improve.
“It’s just tough right now," he said, "because we are having to do a lot of work outside of the game to make sure our organization is legit aside from also playing the game.”