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Boise State esports team qualifies for national championship

Over the weekend, BSU welcomed more than 30 schools for the Collegiate Esports Commissioners Cup West Regional.

BOISE, Idaho — While thousands of people gathered in downtown Boise for the Big Sky Conference basketball tournament over the weekend, another competition was happening just across the street — esports. 

Boise State University welcomed more than 30 schools and 200 players for the Collegiate Esports Commissioner's Cup West Regional. It was BSU's first time hosting, program director Doc Haskell said. 

"The teams that win here advance like the basketball finals to the big dance this year in Texas," he said. 

So far, Haskell said two BSU teams have qualified for the national championship, known as "May Madness." Five different teams play a specific game, including "Overwatch," "Rocket League," "Halo," "Super Smash Brothers" and "Valorant." 

BSU is one of the top five collegiate esports programs in the nation. It already has four national titles and 11 conference titles. In total, Haskell said they've racked up more than 1,000 wins. 

"We attract the best players from all around the country," he said. "We bring them here to compete in what they're best at." 

BSU freshman Emiliano Flores plays on the Rocket League team. He said video games mean something different to everyone. 

"I fell in love with video games because I wanted to go professional," Flores said. "Some people do it as an escape from what they don't like about reality." 

While competitions are always nerve-wracking, Flores said hosting the regional competition added extra pressure. 

"People are looking at us because they came here to play us," he said. "To come out on top is awesome .... [we're] defending the trophy for sure." 

Collegiate Sports Management Group organized the Commissioner's Cup West Regional. Chief operating officer Ray Katz said they are the leader in collegiate esports, with more than 500 schools around the country participating in events. 

"We are in our ninth year of business," he said. "It's the third year of running a national championship, and it gets bigger and better every year." 

Haskell said gamers with BSU's esports team prepare for competitions just like any other sports team. They meet for 20 hours each week for practices and meetings. 

Most of the time, gamers compete online. Haskell said having such a large group of like-minded people in person boosts morale in the esports community. 

"It's phenomenal to be able to bring our friends here and show them the way that they do it, and hopefully, they'll take it back to their campus and try to beat us, which is what we want," he said. 

More BSU esports teams can qualify for the national championships at the Mountain West championships in April.

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