Niagara University launches Esports Club

Contributed photoRobby Helbringer, a senior from Clarence Center, competes in Niagara University’s inaugural Esports tournament as members of the Esports club and other students watch. The winner of the tournament will go on to compete against Canisius College at an upcoming Buffalo Sabres game.

Niagara University students have a new way to engage with each other while developing strategic thinking, teamwork, collaboration, and goal setting skills — Esports. The competitive form of computer gaming is fast-growing on college campuses nationwide, with more than 100 institutions currently participating.

“The students who are currently involved in this club are empowered by our Office of Campus Activities to challenge one another in a healthy, competitive atmosphere that is built around teamwork,” said Jason Jakubowski, Niagara University dean of student affairs.

Officially recognized in October, the club held its inaugural event, an NHL 19 game tournament, on Feb. 20 in the university’s Gallagher Center. Presented by the Esports club and Pegula Sports & Entertainment, a visit from Buffalo Sabres mascot Sabretooth highlighted the event, during which a dozen students competed to earn the opportunity to face off against the winner of the Canisius College tournament at an upcoming Sabres game at Buffalo’s Key Bank Center. Dan Spors, a freshman from Tonawanda won the tournament, with Robby Helbringer, a senior from Clarence Center, placing second.

“This is great way for Niagara University to meet student interests and provide a co-curricular activity where they can represent the university in an activity that they clearly love,” said Bill Newton, assistant director of Campus Activities. “The NHL 19 tournament was a great first event for NU Esports and an opportunity to have a student organization take advantage of the recent agreement with PSE.”

This month, the members of the Esports club will compete against other universities at the HV Gamer Con & Expo in Albany. The event, the largest collegiate Esports event in the northeast, is co-sponsored by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Future plans for the Esports club include joining the ECAC Fall Esports League so that members can play other institutions in the northeast in multiple titles, and to dedicate a physical space on campus for the club to allow members access to the technology they need to compete while enhancing their visibility within the student body.

“The Esports landscape has been developing at a rapid pace globally, and its impact on college campuses is undeniable,” said Simon Gray, director of athletics. “The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and its members are fully entrenched in Esports because of its ability to attract and engage students. I expect the popularity of Niagara Esports to grow exponentially in short order.”

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