Keizer Esports team competes from West Palm Beach campus in video game

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The university transformed a vacant classroom on its flagship West Palm Beach campus into a state-of-the-art E-Sports lab, hired head coach Ross Adams to lead the team and launched its inaugural campaign in 2019. But the Keiser athletic department tuned out the cynical commentary of its contemporaries and heard the pulse of the athletic world’s avant grade: competitive gaming.

“To bring in a new program that a lot of schools aren’t bringing in — it’s great to be at the forefront of something really exciting,” Shoemaker said. “Most schools are behind the curve on this, to be honest with you, their thought process is ancient.” Esports involves individual gamers or teams competing directly in online, multiplayer video games, and the sport has enjoyed rapid growth over the past five years. The worldwide Esports audience falls just short of 500 million people, and the industry just surpassed $1 billion in total revenue. 

High school football:Here’s how four PBC high school football coaches are approaching a shortened summer Most collegiate Esports teams are run as clubs by students, but Keiser supports Esports at the varsity athletics level. This allows Adams to recruit gamers from across the country, conduct daily practices and conditioning sessions and even offer scholarships.

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Keiser translated this considerable investment into a strong first season against larger, Division 1 opposition. The Eagles finished 5-3 in Counter-Strike, a first-person shooting game, and picked up a pair of wins against in-state rival USF.  “I still shock a lot of parents,” Adams said. “I tell them this is like any other sport on campus we do, we do our study halls, we do our, you know, our weight training exercise. And with that comes scholarships.”

Adams’ roster grew to 25 players in 2020 amidst the pandemic, and the team enjoyed its first major breakthrough this season. Keiser placed fourth at the Apex Legends Collegiate Champions League, and graduate senior Marc Alegri finished second at the tournament in kills.  “A lot of other sports were hindered during COVID,” Adams said. “Part of the reason why Esports was kind of thrown into the spotlight is, we can still do our competitions and our practices, and still connect with other players out there.” But it was the COVID-19 pandemic, which unfolded shortly after its opening campaign ended, that showed the meddle of Keiser Esports and the sport as a whole. While many sports struggled to adapt to social-distancing regulations and a lack of access to equipment, Esports’ online model remain unchanged. 

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