Can Collegiate Esports save NA-CS:GO?
North American Counter-Strike is sadly withering away. This isn’t new to anyone, as the poor performances have shown everyone that the scene isn’t exactly flourishing, and has spurred on many memes that mock the region.
Recent finishes from top teams in North America haven’t been great. In the most recent Major no NA teams showed any signs of life, all being eliminated before playoffs. The most recent showing of NA’s talents in the Intel Extreme Masters Winter, displayed Team Liquid (North America's best team) exiting in groups again going 1-2. The other juggernaut of the west, Evil Geniuses, performed so poorly they went out in the group stage of the Major, with an embarrassing record of 0-3. With the flurry of poor performances, an oncoming roster shuffle is about to take place in the scene, and it’s a sign of what's to come for the region.
Along with the complete rebuilds of NA rosters, more and more organizations are packing up their teams and moving them to Europe. The reason for this is the ease of access to tournaments, along with better competition for players to improve with. With the lack of accessibility to events in North America, it’s easy to see why teams are leaving. This being a leading factor in the diminishment of NA CS:GO, along with poor player mentality, and lack of tournaments in the region, but what can be done to save it?
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Collegiate Esports - Davenport Esports
Collegiate Esports sanctioned through CSL (CSL being the organization funding and setting up College Esports events) are on a steady rise with increasing prize pools, and scholarship opportunities every year. Universities are already building up support for their varsity Esports programs, with teams like the Davenport Panthers boasting incredible backing from sponsors and their school. As of December 4th, 2021, Drexel University's varsity Counter-Strike team won the NA CSL tournament for a grand prize of 10,000 dollars. With North American Counter-Strike’s lack of prize money in the game, it shows that collegiate teams are getting serious backing, and are receiving more winnings than the average amateur CS team.
This makes a viable pathway for up-and-coming Counter-Strike players. However, after speaking with one of the winners of the CSL tournament, he had this to say “I think it has more potential, but there needs to be a full cultural shift within schools to acknowledge, and recognize their esports, specifically CS:GO, athletes, as well as a mindset shift in the CS:GO scene to value our CSL win as much as it should be valued”. This statement from the player Noah “NoVa” Vaknin came along with mixed reviews about collegiate Esports, stating as well that “Drexel doesn't talk about our win even”. This shows a certain disdain towards the athletes, as they’re treating the roster as more of a club, and not as the fully functioning team that they are.
With that in mind, there is a complete flip on the narrative if you take a gander at the losing team of the CSL tournament: Davenport Esports. Davenport is receiving a lot of support from their school, and has a full-fledged team in the ESEA advanced division. With lots of support from their school in the way of hefty scholarships, player housing on campus, and recognition from top talents in the industry, they surely have a lot going for them.
The future of NA?
Now, this beckons the question once again, can collegiate Esports save North American CS:GO?
At the moment, no. College Esports won’t be saving anything; However, it certainly has the potential to. With teams like Davenport University leading the way in the scene, for their players, with their incredible support and funding, they certainly found the best path for their team. On that note, winning rosters like Drexel are finding minimum support from their college, and won’t be receiving it for any time soon. If more schools can get into funding their Esports programs as Davenport has, then collegiate Counter-Strike can surely be a great step for NA CS.