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BW steps up esports to include varsity competition

Adding to recreational gameplay, BW is now finding success with multiple varsity esports teams.

A BW esports team player

"Aww jackets, baby!"

That was the celebratory shoutout from "Conwa" in the post-match Twitch interview that followed a dominant debut performance by Baldwin Wallace University in a national collegiate esports league.

"Conwa" is the gamer name of BW business administration major Connor Griffiths '23. He and the other four members of BW's new "Call of Duty" varsity team burst onto the scene in NACE Starleague competition in the fall with a 3-0 sweep of Keiser University.

"Baldwin Wallace University as a whole just put the rest of the league on notice," a play-by-play announcer noted during the main Twitch live stream.

Connor Griffiths ‘23 is interviewed on Twitch.

Collegiate league play

Esports has exploded in popularity. A 2018 Pew Research study found that 90% of teens, ages 13-17, play video games.

BW esports has also seen rapid growth, with a roster of more than 40 students competing in two leagues during the fall, the first varsity season in BW history.

Five BW varsity teams and two academy teams (think junior varsity play) are slated to compete in five esports titles this spring: Call of Duty, Rocket League, Overwatch, Super Smash and Valorant. Additional students are involved in behind-the-scenes roles.

Open to all levels

Jake Grasso (center) is BW’s director of esportsUnder the leadership of Jake Grasso, BW's director of esports, the University has joined the NACE national league and the regional Great Lakes Esports Conference (GLEC).

"We are a club that is transitioning into a program that is open to all gamers on campus," Grasso says. "Even if they don't have the desire to compete, there are still other ways to get involved. We are currently recruiting for fall to continue to build on the foundation we have set for future Yellow Jacket gamers."

Growing as a team

The team practices and competes at nearby Top Level Gaming in Middleburg Heights, which bills itself as the "Premier Esport and Internet Gaming site in Northeast Ohio."

After a club "Elympics" to celebrate their first season, the Yellow Jackets are aiming to keep rising together.

As Griffiths told viewers on Twitch after the early success of the Call of Duty team, "All five of us are really passionate about playing together and growing as a team." The goal is to "see what level we push to and how far we can go with this."

Aww Jackets, indeed!

Yellow Jacket gamers wrapped up the fall (and first) season of varsity competition with an “Elympics” celebration.

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