In the fall of 2016, Columbia College became one of the first higher-education institutions in the country to adopt Esports. Beginning with two teams of five players competing in League of Legends, the Cougars captured immediate success in their new endeavor. CC produced top honors at the Harrisburg University Esports Festival and a second-place finish at the 2018 College League of Legends Championship.
After hosting the Midwest Campus Clash and Gaming Expo for three consecutive years from 2017-19, Columbia College and mid-Missouri quickly became nationally renowned in the competitive gaming industry.
In the fall of 2021, the Cougars continued their evolution in Esports by adding Rocket League and Rainbow 6 Siege to their competitive gaming catalog. Similar to its original adoption of League of Legends, Columbia College enjoyed instant positive results with its new teams, capturing five Collegiate Rocket League titles that year alone.
In January 2020, Aaron Shockley was appointed as the new director of Columbia College Esports. Shockley arrived at CC’s main campus in Columbia, Missouri, following a successful two-year tenure as the director of Esports at Central Methodist University. Since his arrival, Shockley and Director of Athletics James Arnold have continued the program’s rapid ascension by adding Madden and Valorant to its competitive gaming lineup. Additionally, the Esports roster has climbed from six players in 2020 to currently standing at 28 total student-athletes.
Housed in the Esports Game Hut on main campus, individual and team accolades have continued to pile up for the Cougars. In November 2022, Columbia College reached new heights by tallying its first-ever Esports national title. The Cougars toppled Northwood University out of Midland, Michigan, in the Rocket League Fall National Championship and brought home the treasured hardware.
Thanks in part to the success and notoriety of CC’s program, Shockley continues to see incredible advancement in Esports within Missouri.
“The main growth I have seen over the last two years has definitely been the development of the high school Esports league in Missouri,” Shockley says. “We have close to almost 300 high schools now offering Esports for various games. We have also seen the number of colleges in Missouri that offer Esports grow. This has allowed us not only to compete against schools closer to our own state, but also develop good rivalries.”
As the Esports industry boom appears to have no end in sight, Shockley seeks to capitalize on the momentum and foresees even bigger developments within his program.
“I would like to see CC Esports expand our roster offerings to not only players, but to behind-the-scenes help such as managers, social media personnel, broadcasting and casting opportunities,” Shockley says. “I would also like to see us continue to expand our game offerings and potentially open a larger facility to attract more members to our Esports club who just want to be a part of a student organization on campus.
“Finally, I hope we can also offer more coaching opportunities within not only our own program, but also develop relationships with high schools so our players are able to develop their talents and potentially have a career in the industry once they graduate.”