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[CSL] Growing the Collegiate LoL Scene, CSL Style

Creator: Collegiate_LoL March 13, 2013 5:47pm
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Jun 24th, 2012
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By: Lydia Johnston, Brandon Ewing, and Josh Hosking
Graphics by Chantha Kul

The CSL took a chance on adding League of Legends to their competitive games and it proved to be a winning bet. The first season of Collegiate LoL pulled 340 teams from Europe, Asia and North America to battle it out for the first Azubu Collegiate League of Legends Championship title. Teams competed for a 5-week normal season, and then qualifying teams battled their way through playoff brackets for their region. At the end of four long rounds, only four teams remained for the Grand Finals at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA: Fontys Hogeschool, Korea University, U.C. Irvine, and Texas A&M.

While many knew that the players from these schools were solid, few could have predicted just how good their teamwork and coordination would be, even under the pressure of the finals. By mixing near pro-level play with the unique playstyle of their region, each team brought a unique flavor to the competition - watching them clash and play off of each other made the games thrilling for both spectators and the players themselves, who could never quite predict what champions and strategies their opponent would bring out next.

Surprisingly, it would be the North American collegiate scene that proved to have the most success, with the underdog Texas A&M meeting the reigning collegiate champions UC Irvine in a final Best of 5 that defied everyone’s predictions. “Nearly every member of our staff was favoring UC Irvine to take it after they showed so much strength against Korea University in the semi-finals”, said Brandon Ewing, head of League writing at the event, “but Texas A&M showed some phenomenal teamwork, and most importantly never seemed to get angry or down on each other when a mistake or bad situation would happen.”

Their joyful, joking style allowed them to stay cool even when UC Irvine brought out their best champions, such as Kevin “Lilkvn” Nguyen’s famous LeBlanc, and in the end they actually - against all odds - took the finals down 3-0, earned $40,000 in scholarship prizes, and showed that they were definitely a team to be reckoned with in the collegiate scene.

Texas A&M, The first League of Legends Collegiate Champions,
smile big for the cameras after their traditional celebratory champagne shower!

All of the action even brought out some current superstars - the entire lineup of Counter Logic Gaming attended the CSL Grand Finals to meet their college fans and scout out some possible future competition. AD Carry Doublelift even sat in with our own Reid “RAPiD” Melton to cast game two of the series between Texas A&M and Fontys Hogeschool. Through the sponsorship and support of two of the most widely recognized names in eSports - Azubu and CLG - the CSL is bridging the gap between professional and amateur gamers. Check out some highlights of Doublelift casting HERE!

The finals were more than a place for teams to test their mettle; they were a place to bring together the international collegiate LoL community. Fans and staff members even exhibited their enthusiasm for League of Legends by dressing up as League champions!

In the words of CSL LoL Head Administrator Nick "SallyDesu" Soh, “[CSL] has created a place where students can compete together as a team for a common goal... and consequently has helped create the foundation for school eSports clubs.”

(Lydia’s note: I experienced this myself when I had the opportunity to interview Geert “Tempname6032” Lombarts, the coordinator for Fontys Hogeschool as part of a feature I wrote on their team. I was nervous to approach someone I had never met, but Geert graciously answered all of my questions and made me feel welcome as a fellow player and League enthusiast. I talked to him about how he brought his team of all-stars together to dominate the European bracket, and fostered excitement for a CSL team at his school. Talking to Geert inspired me to start a League program at my own college, and gave extremely helpful insight into what it takes to coordinate a successful CSL LoL team. Most significantly, I gained a new friend from across the globe with a similar passion for League of Legends. CSL provided me a context to connect with Geert and many other people who are enthusiastic about League and promoting eSports at the college level.)

Similar stories were repeated around the world as players made new friends and grew closer to their teammates while practicing and fighting for their right to compete in the Championships.

All college students want to find ways to earn extra cash, and what cooler way to do this than by playing their favorite games competitively against other schools worldwide? CSL handed out $40,000 at the Grand Finals in February to the top teams in the world. Only one team was able to claim first prize at the Grand Finals, and CSL recognizes that the players are not the only people who make this organization as outstanding as it is. With this in mind, CSL is offering four $4,000 scholarships to students who exemplify outstanding play, community service, leadership, and outstanding academics. The deadline has been extended to April 1st, see the original post HERE for information on how to apply!

Azubu has sponsored these prizes and scholarships for students involved in CSL, but Nick “SallyDesu” Soh has a higher vision for opportunities for CSL players. “I want to see Universities backing and investing in eSports, by means of running programs [and] offering scholarships to students to play for their school.” The framework for Nick’s vision is now possible with the addition of League of Legends to CSL, and Riot’s new Collegiate Program.

The addition of LoL to the Collegiate StarLeague came at an auspicious time with the advent of Riot's Collegiate Program. The program, which started earlier this year, fosters college eSports clubs by rewarding members for completing objectives that promote their organization with coveted League swag. The organizations are intended to build collegiate League communities for players of all skill levels, and as the biggest collegiate League of Legends competition in the world, with vast opportunities for players and coordinators to get involved in the eSports community, CSL opens up one of the best possible competitive outlet for these clubs.

One of the benefits to being part of such a large and well-sponsored eSports organization is the exposure it gives its members. While a lot of people might have seen U.C. Irvine’s Veetine on various streams prior to this last season in the CSL, he will now likely be known as the player who carried UC Irvine to a 2-0 victory in their series against Korea University in the CSL LoL semifinals. This type of exposure is great for the fans, as it gives niche groups of fans who may not associate with professional teams something to cheer for. Nick Soh remarks that “Players should be able to talk to people about their involvement with eSports the same way an athlete would.” Now with the notoriety from the first Grand Finals, these players will be able to.

What does all this mean for CSL LoL? There is no better time than now to get involved or stay involved, with the success of the first Azubu Collegiate Championship and beginning of the Riot Collegiate Program! In order to present a way for new schools to get involved with intercollegiate eSports, CSL is introducing a smaller spring tournament for veteran teams to test themselves, and new teams to get their feet wet.

Registration is open NOW for the qualifiers for the CSL Spring Tournament. For more information, check out the announcement post HERE. See you on Summoner’s Rift!

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