The Indiana University East esports team loaded the Red Wolf bus for a 72-mile drive to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.
The Red Wolves were on their way to Pacers Gaming to meet with the professional NBA 2K League team on March 16. The road trip was on one the last remaining days of spring break. It was also a good way to celebrate the last night of competition for the team’s spring season.
The connection with IU East esports and Pacers Gaming was opportunity for gamers to see behind the scenes of professional gaming and to network with players, while competing with the squad in NBA 2K.
Esports Coach Andrew Britt, B.A. ’13, said the visit to Pacers Gaming was due in part to his team captain, Kady Campbell.
Campbell provided a student report during the Indiana University Board of Trustees visit to the IU East campus in February. She shared about IU East’s esports team, now in its second varsity year of competition. Campbell additionally talked with the board about the players, the games the team competes in and what gaming is all about.
Quinn Buckner is a member of the IU Board of Trustees, and he is the vice president of communications for Pacers Sports and Entertainment. Buckner later visited the esports room in Springwood Hall to tour the arena where the team virtually plays colleges and universities from all over the country. Buckner also initiated the visit to Pacers Gaming.
Campbell is from Fishers, Indiana. She is a junior online student at IU East double-majoring in criminal justice and psychology. She runs the team’s social media presence. Her expertise is in Rocket League and Overwatch. She and teammate Kari Swoboda, B.S. ’22, made program history in March 2022 as the first IU East esports players to enter the NACE Starleague Fortnite Collegiate Series Championship.
Plus, Campbell is a member of the Student Government Association at IU East.
“The visit to the Pacers Gaming Arena was an insightful one,” Campbell said. “I was able to meet the coaches and learn how the professional esports world operates. It was a great and welcoming community as well.”
In the Arena with Pacers Gaming
When the Red Wolves arrived at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the team viewed the skyline from the parking garage roof before heading inside to see all the tech and meet the faces behind Pacers Gaming.
Fifteen of the 25-member team participated in the visit, as well as two alumni.
Inside the Pacers Gaming Arena, they toured the 3,000 square-foot facility taking in the strategy room and gaming stations.
Pacers Gaming Senior Director of Esports Operations, Cody Parrent, and Spencer Martin, director of content production, provided the tour and talk about one of their greatest passions – gaming.
“We are ecstatic to host IU East’s esports team,” Parrent said. “We are centrally located here in Indianapolis. One of our missions as Pacers Gaming is to grow the grassroots of esports across the state
of Indiana. We are here to inspire and educate, and spending time with students who have the same passions and interests as us, it just makes it so much fun.”
Martin said Pacers Gaming will host three to five groups from schools and other organizations throughout the month.
Pacers Gaming was established six years ago and is now in its fifth season of league play. The team includes one returning player and four new players on this year’s roster. The NBA 2K League plays a 3v3 and 5v5 series, with the six-month season from March to August.
Pacers Gaming players greeted the IU East esports team and invited them to step up to the consoles and play NBA 2K.
Most of the IU East players had not yet played NBA 2K but took to it right away.
Initially, six IU East gamers took the seats:
- Team One: Campbell, Zavier Mills, Richmond, freshman, humanities major; and Reggie Reuss, B.S. ’22
- Team Two: Raedhyn Foust, Liberty, Indiana, freshman, criminal justice; Tarrell Jewell, Cleveland, Ohio, (Richmond), freshman, human life sciences; JD Davis, freshman, Indianapolis, Indiana, Exploratory Baccalaureate
- Pacers Gaming: Kory Taylor, “Chess,” Gil Santiago Jr.,”Range,” and Eric Ward,Team Operations Coordinator.
Teams one and two competed against each other, with the winner moving on to challenge members of Pacers Gaming. Each game has a winning score of 21 and must be won by 2 points. In the end, team two took the match.
IU East’s team of Foust, Jewell and Davis challenged the Pacers Gaming team, adjusting to the arena and NBA 2K game right away. The Red Wolves were competitive, at times keeping the score close or tied. By the third game, it was so close a tie-breaking shot ended the game.
Mills said Pacers Gaming didn’t take it easy on the Red Wolves. Pacers Gaming swept the Red Wolves 3-0, but it was all in fun.
Jewell had played NBA 2K before, but the matchup reinspired his interest.
“Being able to play against their players, made me want to play 2K again,” Jewell said.
Jewell is one of the newest members of the esports team. He currently plays Overwatch and Fortnite for the Red Wolves. He’s also a member of the IU East men’s basketball team, as are his NBA 2K teammates Foust and Davis.
Jewell wanted to join the esports team because “growing up I loved playing video games and was really good at some,” he said. “I liked the environment; it definitely opened my eyes to what we can improve with our program and something I would love to be a part of.”
The arena had more than just high-end computers, accessories and chairs made for gaming.
Players have access to other video games and board games such as Chess and Klask, or a basketball hoop shot to take breaks from screen time.
After trading Red Wolves and Pacers Gaming swag and group photos, the team returned home to compete in their last competition for the spring season while the pro-league prepared for an evening matchup.
After Visit Motivation
The visit to Pacers Gaming inspired the IU East esports team to continue their efforts to grow the program here.
IU East’s esports is now in its second year of competition. The esports program started on campus as a club in 2019, and now has the honor of being the first varsity esports team for an IU regional campus. The team competes in Fortnite, League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros., Overwatch and Valorant.
Garrett Keener of Connersville, Indiana, has been a part of IU East esports since it was a club. He plays all the games in the esports arsenal.
A graduating senior this May, the business administration major took an interest in the management side of esports during the visit with Pacers Gaming. After college, he anticipates taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) exam and applying for law school.
“I spent a lot of time talking with Cody and Spencer during the visit. I learned about the business aspect of esports,” Keener said.
Keener added he enjoyed seeing his esports team together. With members who sometimes have games on different nights, and varying practice schedules, the team isn’t always in the same arena.
Mills is the arena manager and just finished his first year on the team. His plays League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant and Fortnite.
He agreed having the esports team take the trip to Pacers Gaming was a good bonding experience for the team. There were members he hadn’t met in person, and others he got to know better.
“I thought it was just a really cool experience,” Mills said.
Mills talked with Pacers Gaming players throughout the visit, learning what it’s like to balance home life with gaming as a career. “Most of them have nocturnal schedules and that really surprised me,” Mills said.
Mills added the IU East team is also starting to build connections with high school and middle school programs. In March, Franklin City High School from Franklin, Ohio, visited the IU East esports arena to learn about what the team does at the collegiate level.
Another bonus of the visit focused on sponsorships and what the esports team could consider. To do that, it takes connections, and that is another main objective for Britt.
Britt connects with teachers, club advisors, students and parents who are interested in learning more about the esports program across the region.
A self-proclaimed “tech-nerd,” Mills also liked to see the gear and equipment they were using. “Overall, it was just a good experience,” he said.
The arena itself is also a draw. IU East’s esports arena is a recently updated suite in Springwood Hall, located in the Office of Campus Life. New arena graphics just for the team were created by Kaly Irvine, B.A. ’15, print and digital media designer for the Office of Communications and Marketing at IU East and former esports coach.
The visit to Pacers Gaming brought inspiration on what the team could do to continue enhancing their own space.
“What I enjoyed most about the visit to the facility was seeing the space,” Campbell said. “It gave our team a lot of inspiration of how we want to train, practice, and connect in person more. The design of the room was gorgeous, and it was fantastic being able to see it.”
The co-ed team has grown from a handful of members to 25 during the spring season. Students must meet academic standards in order to participate. The team competes in fall and spring.
“We’re open and welcome to everyone,” Britt said.
The atmosphere of esports is one that draws Campbell as an online student to the team.
“Being able to have a community to come and see is amazing when I visit. Our community is also very diverse and welcoming to everyone, and it creates a feeling of family,” Campbell said. “I hope to see this program grow with our new recruits and the new games we have added. We will continue to train and progress to take wins. But, more importantly, we will continue to be a family with one another and create a space for those that have like interests.”
About Esports at IU East
IU East esports is a co-varsity sport. The video game-based form of competition began its first year of competition in 2021-2022 at IU East. IU East esports competes in Fortnite, League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros., Overwatch and Valorant.
For more information on IU East esports, contact Coach Andrew Britt at email@example.com.