The expansion of the esports industry over the last five years has been amazing to watch. To see how much it has infiltrated into the mainstream of society is something people have wished for years. The growth and expansion that games, teams, and leagues are seeing is truly a sight and it’s no different for one of the new kids on the collegiate esports block, CF1 Esports.
Collegiate esports, sometimes the forgotten child of the esports industry, have been growing at a rapid rate in recent years and CF1 Esports, one of the first collegiate Valorant leagues in the country, has found itself uniquely positioned to help facilitate competitions between a multitude of different schools.
With a variety of schools, club types, and competitive levels, CF1 Esports has spent the past two semesters fostering a highly competitive and accepting environment for students to compete in Valorant at the highest levels. By having a league that accepts teams from such a large variety of programs, CF1 offers high-level competitions between some schools that have a vast difference in program equity.
The league has done an incredible job of mixing Power 5 conference schools like Rutgers, Texas A&M, and Alabama, as well as other schools like Niagara College, Ryerson University, and the University of Waterloo. This ability to marry the smaller schools with much larger schools, and be able to pit scholarship programs against club programs has been an important mission for CF1.
Even with the varying degrees of programs and schools, the games and teams have stayed competitive and fun.
“Club programs can be as strong as programs that have scholarship opportunities. We just want as many teams as possible to be able to compete,” said CF1 Esports Head of Lead Operations, Scott Zackman when I asked him what it’s been like working with these schools. Zackman started his esports career when he was a student at Rutgers University as the Overwatch Club President and Coord, before eventually becoming an executive board member for Rutgers Esports, as well as their competitive director.
“That’s the benefit of CF1 Esports. Taking the time to make sure everyone feels welcome in the space and is competing at their highest level. If people want to be here then people are going to be competing their hardest to be here,” said Zackman.
While the competitions have been fierce, it’s the care and attention the staff at CF1 has given these schools that make them want to keep competing in the league.
Susan “July” Kuang, the Manager for Valorant teams at the University of Waterloo said that CF1 might just be their preferred league.
“I believe CF1 is very well run. The broadcast production is very high and it’s honestly our favorite tournament that we compete in. We compete in two to three big tournaments in Valorant per semester, but CF1 is definitely our favorite,” said Kuang.
And while the subject of inclusion in esports, especially collegiate esports is a big topic right now, Kuang said that CF1 doesn’t seem to have that issue.
“I think the population for women in collegiate esports is just low overall. I would say that CF1 does a good job of fostering an environment for inclusivity,” Kuang said, “I think CF1 is just very, very well organized and I really think it could blow up quite big.”
While CF1 Esports is still at the very beginning stages of its development, with a great staff, a league filled with talented teams and players, and a group of talented broadcasters, the league seems poised for big things moving forward.
However, for Scott Zackman, it’s just about helping teams compete and get where they want to be.
“On a fundamental level, I want colleges to participate as much as they can. I want to be the one that can help them. If players have any interest in going into esports after college, I want to do as much as I possibly can to help develop that in them,” Zackman said when asked what he would say to schools interested in joining.
You can watch CF1 Esports Monday-Wednesday nights on Twitch