UCI Esports to offer scholarships for top ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ players


by | Aug 7, 2019, 1:00PM PDT

Pilot team made possible by $50,000 gift from media publisher, video game enthusiast


Irvine, Calif., Aug. 7, 2019 — The University of California, Irvine esports program will host a pilot scholarship team for “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” during the 2019-20 academic year – thanks to a $50,000 gift from the owners of Street Media, which publishes Irvine Weekly and LA Weekly, led by CEO (and gamer) Brian Calle.

Players will be jointly selected by UCI Esports and the TAG Smash Ultimate Club at UCI, and the funds will be used to offer $6,000 scholarships to the top six as well as for administrative purposes. All current UCI students are eligible to try out for the new crew in October at the UCI Esports Arena. “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is a fighting game for up to eight people in which characters from Nintendo and third-party franchises try to knock each other off playing stages.

“The ‘Smash’ community at UCI is one of the biggest and most passionate gaming clubs on campus,” said Mark Deppe, director of UCI Esports. “We are fortunate to be able to offer scholarships to ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Overwatch’ players. When a donor emerged with a desire to support one of his favorite games, we knew this was something we had to pursue to create more opportunities for the ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ student gaming community.”

While there is no coach for the team, UCI Esports will provide staff to coordinate practice times, travel, social media, equipment needs and competitions. Players are expected to practice 10 to 15 hours per week, maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA and follow the code of conduct to compete in tournaments and stay on scholarship.

“This is a huge deal for the UCI ‘Smash’ community, as we work very hard to grow the competitive scene and push it into the same spotlight that many other esports have,” said senior Justin Muscat, president of the TAG Smash Ultimate Club at UCI. “The university offering scholarships for ‘Smash’ is a major step forward and validates the work we’ve done.”

UCI is home to an esports arena with 72 custom PCs and computer monitors, headphones and gaming chairs, as well as a studio that broadcasts matches to hundreds of thousands of viewers. Opened in September 2016, it functions as a high-end recreational facility that’s also open to the public. In addition, the esports program has coaching and administrative staff, a team psychologist and an exercise physiologist.

“UCI Esports is the leader in gaming education and the yardstick by which other programs are measured,” Calle said. “We are thrilled to be able to support the development of top talent for the sport. As an avid gamer and ‘Smash’ player, it’s inspiring to see the dedication and commitment these students give to the game and to see them recognized as collegiate athletes.”

This month, UCI’s current “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” club team will compete for the national title at Shine 2019 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The crew won the Southern California qualifier and then the Western Regional to earn a spot in the college championship, hosted by the Collegiate Starleague. Players will battle winners of the other three regionals for the CSL trophy and part of the $15,000 prize.

“‘Smash’ has historically been an incredibly significant game to The Association of Gamers at UCI, with our community always brimming with passion, hosting tournament after tournament,” said senior Brandi Moy, president of TAG at UCI. “It’s extremely exciting that our students can now receive official support and pursue their competitive dreams through these scholarships.”

About UCI Esports: UCI is the first public university to create an official esports program, which is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive in the world. With a successful computer game science major, an enthusiastic gaming community and a history of elite competition, UCI is a natural place for esports to thrive. A collaboration among student leaders, faculty, gamers and forward-thinking administrators, UCI’s esports program was announced in the spring of 2016. In September of that year, the UCI Esports Arena – powered by iBUYPOWER – opened. The pillars of UCI Esports are competition, academics and research, community, entertainment, and careers. In 2015, College Magazine ranked UCI the No. 1 school for gamers in North America. The campus’s esports program was featured in a four-part documentary on ESPN2 earlier this year.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

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“The ‘Smash’ community at UCI is one of the biggest and most passionate gaming clubs on campus,” said Mark Deppe, director of UCI Esports. “When a donor emerged with a desire to support one of his favorite games, we knew this was something we had to pursue.”

Steve Zylius / UCI

UCI Esports Introduces Valorant Head Coach: CurryShot!


by | Nov 22, 2022, 11:37PM PDT

This year UCI Esports is proud to announce our very own Valorant team, the latest addition to our existing esports scholarship program! As excited as we were to venture into the inaugural collegiate Valorant season, we knew we needed a coach to do it right. Hence why we proudly present Rohit “CurryShot” Nathani as our latest hire as Valorant Head Coach! 

You may recognize CurryShot for his time coaching Overwatch as the former Strategic Coach from Mayhem Academy, Guangzhou Charge, and the Los Angeles Gladiators. More recently, CurryShot has been embracing Valorant and worked with multiple teams to find their footing in the fresh title.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to coach the UCI Valorant team. Valorant is a game I’m really passionate about and I think our team can go far this season. I can’t wait to get started and I want to cultivate a culture that’s healthy and brings wins. I want us to work hard to surpass expectations and thrive in this title like UCI does in all their titles.”

Rohit “CurryShot” Nathani

The season has already started and the UCI Esports’ Valorant team currently stands in the Top 16 in the Western Conference. Make sure to support Curryshot and the players by tuning in to our UCI Esports Twitch to watch our Valorant games on Saturdays at 3:00pm PT!

Community Engagement Coordinator: Jamel Hopkins!


by | Aug 1, 2022, 12:18PM PDT

Whether you’re sieging towers, rushing sites, or pushing payloads, it’s your teammates that largely determine the course of the game. The community with which you surround yourself with is central to the gaming experience, in-game and out. Therefore, it is with great excitement that we announce Jamel “Aespirin” Hopkins, former shoutcaster and student staffer, will be joining the program full-time as our first-ever Community Engagement Coordinator.

Jamel will play an essential role for the program by connecting UCI Esports to the greater gaming community. As a primary liaison of the program, they will help to encourage and foster relations with other gaming spaces of all scopes, high school students, local UCI clubs, UCI alumni, and the national college esports community as a whole.

“As we have evolved as a program and adjusted to a world with COVID-19, we see a tremendous opportunity to use games and esports to re-engage our communities as we come back together in person. Our new Community Coordinator will play a vital role, connecting us more closely with UCI clubs, high school students, and our local community.”

– Mark Deppe, UCI Esports Director

“I’m ecstatic for this opportunity to give back to UCI Esports and the gaming community! In stepping into the role, my goal is to make our program a central hub on campus for students to call home like I have for years. I want our arena to brighten campus. Every student should feel safe and welcome here. I want everyone on campus to come here and get to know us, know each other.”

– Jamel Hopkins, Community Engagement Coordinator

The establishment of this new position at UCI Esports marks an exciting venture in the program’s ongoing commitment to building bridges between our local campus community and beyond. We are more than excited to have Jamel on board once more and look forward to witnessing his continued impact on the program!

First Ever Pokimane Scholarship Recipient: Nyah Beck!


by | Jul 22, 2022, 12:30PM PDT

Two years ago, UCI Esports was excited to announce the upcoming launch of the Pokimane Scholarship. A generous donation of $50,000 was given to the program by the famous gaming personality Imane “Pokimane” Anys herself to fund tuition and fees for student gamers for years to come via accrued interest. Over this summer, the program has chosen one lucky undergraduate to receive $2500 for the 2022 school year ahead, officially beginning the Pokimane Scholarship! 

The first ever recipient of this scholarship will be Nyah Beck, a founder of the Black Gxming Society as well as a Community Leader of The Association of Gamers, both being local campus organizations at UCI. Beck emphasizes the importance of gaming in her life as a conduit for making life-lasting connections and fostering community. 

“I believe the greatest thing [about gaming] has been being able to connect with others who live all over the world and have diverse backgrounds that differ from my own. Even times that the community has not been so great or positive to be around, this often serves as a learning experience, but also makes the great friendships stand out even more. Finding these peers has allowed me to grow and embrace my geekiness and be my most authentic self.”

– Nyah Beck

UCI Esports would like to extend a joyful congratulations to Beck! We are excited to see her impact on the gaming community moving forward!

Welcome Tildae!


by | Dec 9, 2021, 4:17PM PDT

A New Challenger Has Arrived

We are incredibly excited to share that Brenden “Tildae” Alvarez has come back home to UCI and will be joining UCI Esports as our new Arena Coordinator.  Brenden graduated from UCI in 2019 with a degree in Computer Science.  Tildae also played on our Overwatch team for two years, leading the squad to the Fiesta Bowl in 2018 and a berth in the National Championship match.

Since graduating, Brenden has been working as a counselor for Connected Camps and a coach for NASEF.  We are thrilled to have him back on campus and to help us engage the UCI gaming community as we return to campus.

Please join us in welcoming back home and congratulating him on his new position.

Our League of Legends: UCI Esports 2021-22 Roster


by | Nov 2, 2021, 7:37PM PDT

The UCI Esports program formally announces our League of Legends scholarship team rosters today in anticipation of the College League of Legends (CLOL) national championship, coming off the heels of the team’s victory in the RSAA Fall Warmup as the Shurima Division champions.

Your Irvine anteaters are a formidable team, composed of several challenger players, many promising new additions, and a lively spirit coming into this year reinvigorated to fight for the trophy once again, last hoisted by the team in 2018. 

Today, we proudly unveil our official varsity and junior varsity rosters for the year of 2021-22.

Varsity
Top – Erik “Berik” Kim
Jungle – Duong “Duong Pro” Tran 
Mid – Ben “Cinnamon Bread” Chang
Bot – John “Sahori” Vu 
Support – Ethan “Kim Down” Song

Junior Varsity:
Top – Dylan “Dongha” Chen
Jungle – Lan jie “TacoVaco” Tsai
Mid – Danny “Somesort” Yi
Bot – Andrew “Misterdot” Liu
Support – Dylan “dtro18” Tran

“Our return to campus comes paired with new faces and talent. And we have amazing chemistry between the players and rosters, which I think is our strongest asset in contesting the championship this year. Our players are hard-working, resilient and handle adversity together head on. We aim to represent the best that the school has to offer and hope to make the UCI community proud. ” – David “Hermes” Tu, League of Legends Head Coach

Our League of Legends teams have been playing in a handful of leagues and tournaments in practice for Riot Games’ official first-party North American collegiate circuit, and our Junior Varsity team currently competing in the NACE Starleague JV West Playoffs. Having come together less than 2 months ago, the team is growing quickly, full of promise, and eager to make UCI proud as one of the premier teams in the league, and as the pride of the west coast.

Official CLOL matches will be streamed early next year when competition kicks-off in February of 2022 and local watch parties will commence then for local community members and students to come out in support. For more information on our teams, follow our social medias to keep up with the action on and off Summoner’s Rift.

Changing of the Guard


by | Oct 19, 2021, 3:06PM PDT

Greetings from UCI Esports,

We have been incredibly fortunate to have phenomenal people walk through our doors and contribute to the creation of our program.  As we begin our sixth year, we want to thank the following folks who have left us in the past year, and acknowledge their work and legacy.

Jess Acebes: Original student staff, intern, Girls in Gaming camp co-founder, streaming class teacher, NASEF tournament ops, meat lover.

Erik Bleitz:  Strategic planning lead, leadership board administrator, marketing guru, main tank, text-based game entrepreneur.

Milo Dodson: Team psychologist, the Milo of Milo meetings, speaker, celebrity, travel buddy and roommate in China.

Samantha Anton: OCHSEL tournament coordinator, NASEF COO, admissions expert, tour guide, emcee, kombucha advocate, mortal enemy of all Scorpios.

Hillary Phan: Player Support Coordinator, Intern, Girls in Gaming camp co-founder, multi-award winning Animal Crossing island designer, bean.

Damian Rosiak: Original Arena Supervisor, intern, streaming lead, special projects coordinator, Smash Ultimate overseer, NHL tournament overlord, Breakaway world champion.

Kathy Chiang: Fastest typist on the west coast, original Arena Coordinator, TAG founder, role model, collegiate leader, mentor, friend, cat mom.

As we close our chapters with these superstars, we are making a few changes to our current team.  

Ronald Ly is transitioning from Overwatch Head Coach to Acting Assistant Director.

“To my mentors and colleagues that have taught, inspired, and encouraged me these last 3 years, know that it has been a privilege to cross paths with such inspiring teammates. Our program has been enriched and made strong by your work, and I’m excited to see what we’ll all accomplish in the future, whether it be at UCI Esports, elsewhere, or beyond.”

  • Ronald “Renanthera” Ly

Michael Kuhns has moved from Assistant Coach to Head Coach of Overwatch to replace Ronald.

“I am excited to take on this new role and to lead our Overwatch team heading into the new year.  We have the most talent we have ever had and I am excited for our future.”

  • Michael “The” Kuhns

In other positive news, UCI leadership is ramping up support for esports and we will have several full-time and part-time jobs available in the coming months. We will be looking for the next generation of hard carries for our small, but mighty, department.  

We just opened up the Arena Coordinator Position which will be filled in the coming weeks.  Additionally, we are planning to hire an Assistant Director, a Communications Manager, and two part-time assistant coaches in the next six months.  

We will miss all of our colleagues who have left and will cheer them on in their next adventures.  Please join us in thanking our departed staff and stay tuned for some of the exciting things coming soon.

Mark Deppe
Director, UCI Esports