I had the lovely opportunity to sit down with the President of GCU Esports Cole “ILUSVHunter” Ricke. I asked him a myriad of questions, and he was glad to offer me answers and have a great conversation with another individual well versed in the business and understanding of esports.
What does GCU esports offer that other universities and clubs do not?
Some of the most competitive universities such as Maryville offer the highest quality of competitive teams to play on or cheer for while providing their athletes with full ride scholarships. Although their casual/club side is lacking at the moment, GCU esports has the offering of true competitive teams in all sorts of different games but also offers a safe and casual space for friends to play whatever they want and have fun with no pressure of any kind in one of the coolest arenas around. There is a delicate balance that our club offers between competition and the want to win while also supporting the casual and people seeking fun!
On that note, how does GCU esports compare to other universities in AZ?
ASU has an incredible competitive program, they have produced sever players that have gone on to do bigger things in esports such as “Breezyy” who is the current support player for Cloud 9’s amateur team as well (as he has played for other organizations such as 100 Thieves Academy and several other organizations). ASU even won the Heroes of the Dorm National Championship in 2016. GCU fits a more holistic (could also be described as heart warming) environment where people can come to play competitively or just chill and mess around with friends, and no AZ university is close to beating us on that measurement.
What is the support system for the varsity athletes like? Do they get access to things that regular students do not?
Despite esports not being a physical/contact sport of any kind. The varsity esports athletes get access to the same resources that the basketball, baseball, softball, etc. players get. Although a need for ice baths, massages, and that whole suite of benefits is unnecessary for someone who plays Hearthstone very seriously. Aside from these benefits, the Varsity League of Legends and Overwatch teams receive scholarships for maintaining their positions on the Varsity squads.
Who are the universities biggest rivals
Unfortunately, we do not have any specific rivalries that are unique to the GCU club, more so our rivalries mirror the actual universities’ rivals such as the Aggies of New Mexico State University. Although you can say our biggest competition comes from the southwest region of the United States. Such as teams based in California all the way over to Texas.
The view from the Varsity stage
Do you have access to the numbers regarding the growth of the esport club?
In the last few years, there was an insane jump from 500 people to about 1400 and it is still growing. This meant a lot to the club members and the possible future of the club. This jump came from boosting the competitive growth of the program with more teams and the university support to keep growing the teams and games the university competes in. As well as the development of the arena drew a lot of attention which we were able to act on converting people that were interested in regular visitors and active community members.
What is the biggest challenge for the club as a whole? In regards to: support, funding, partnerships?
The number one issue is Communication, there is a set communication chain that takes ideas/complaints all the way up the chain through the leadership of the club and to the university reps. When that communication chain breaks down it becomes a problem for everyone from community members, to the employees, and leadership. The second issue we have is making partnerships that GCU esports wants while respecting the wishes of the university as a whole, and not being disrespectful to the current partners with GCU. Securing funding for the club is a smaller issue but still prevalent in that most schools have to raise their own club funds, but GCU has been gracious in funding our club but that has led us to lack in our own funding efforts.