CSU Law Student Helps Launch Esports Program


This past Fall, I had the opportunity to see one of my largest projects come to fruition and help me get my foot into one of the fastest-growing industries in the world: esports. Esports, for those who have not heard of it, is organized competitive video gaming, often involving teams of the world’s best players competing against each other in tournaments for cash prizes. Currently, the esports industry is valued at around 1.44 billion USD with projections putting it at 5.5 billion USD in the next five years.

In the wake of the pandemic, a lot of programming moved to virtual platforms, and the work I did at Cleveland State’s Recreation Center was no different. As a result, esports at CSU received renewed interest from University Administration. My supervisor, Mackenzie Lamar, tasked me and my counterpart, Michael Nozak, with preparing a preliminary proposal for bringing esports to Cleveland State’s campus. Co-authored by Michael and myself, the proposal focused on the equipment required for such an investment, such as the necessary electronics and peripherals as well as potential spaces on campus that could house an esports program, including an estimated budget for renovations needed to get the project started. After submitting the preliminary proposal, months went by with no word on next steps, until Michael and I were told that the University had taken an interest in the esports program. With support from Recreation Center leadership, a revised proposal was submitted to the University Administration and we began to help with the search process for the first director of the program scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2022. After interviewing numerous candidates, PJ Farrell was chosen to be the first director of esports at Cleveland State University, housed within University Athletics as a varsity sport.

After helping PJ with some of the program logistics, he suggested I try out for the team in the Fall to potentially play for him. I did not think I would make the cut, but I could not help but want to see firsthand what my team’s proposal had created. At tryouts, I was surprised to see the number of students interested in such a new program and walked away feeling optimistic that esports at CSU would quickly grow.  Summer began winding down, and I was preparing to enter my 3L year excited to finish my law school journey. I received a call from PJ with a few weeks to go, asking if I would accept a spot on the main roster to play Valorant for CSU. My initial reaction was excitement, but I quickly became anxious when I started to think about what adding a varsity sport would mean for my already challenging 3L schedule. PJ assured me that everything would work out, and he was right. CSU Athletics and CSU Law have been nothing but helpful and flexible in allowing me to pursue this avenue of interest this year. I have been privileged to play alongside my teammates Daniel, Joe, James, and Ziyeir in the NECC among the hundreds of other universities that compete across the country. 

Even though my time in competitive esports will be coming to an end as graduation approaches, it has introduced me to a potential career path that blends my intellectual property studies with the esports sector. I hope that my time as a competitive esports athlete will give me a unique perspective that I can bring to my practice in the near future, as many firms begin to open dedicated practice groups that provide legal solutions and guidance for the fast-growing industry of esports.

Originally published by The Gavel. Republished here with permission from The Gavel and Andrew Zoeckler