The Big Ten collegiate conference has had dealing in esports in the past, hosting a Big Ten Invitational tournament for League of Legends. Recently, it was announced that the conference has made a bigger investment into esports, partnering with Riot Games and creating a league for its member teams to compete in League of Legends. Twelve teams from the conference will be competing, split into two groups that will play a single round-robin best-of-three series. Indiana University is one of the teams competing in this inaugural season, and I had a chance to talk with the coach of the team, Jon “Tonguey” Mundle.
What do you expect from this first season of BTN partnered with LoL?
Tonguey: “Higher competition, bigger stakes (at least in terms of bragging rights), and more institutional support from Indiana University as well.”
Do you think more BTN teams will join/other conferences join in?
“After seeing the success and exposure this is bringing teams and schools, I do not see a reason why the two BTN colleges absent from the competition will not join next year. I think other big conferences like the rest in the ‘Power Five’ are soon to follow suit, with smaller conferences to follow in the following years. It’s unclear if Riot will be giving generous scholarships to other conferences like they did for ours, since the Big Ten has very talented collegiate teams.”
Is this going to change the future landscape of collegiate esports?
“Yes. It’ll go from random seeding to conference based seeding. In addition, it will help make collegiate competition more ‘personalized’ rather than just a national competition. At the same time though, I believe the BTN partnership and similar dealings in the future will actually take attention away from schools like Robert Morris University and Maryville. While they still might have some of the best teams, they probably won’t face any real competition until the combined bracket stages.”
How does it feel coming in as the lowest ranked team?
“Coming into this year, IU’s competitive team has had a shaky history. I knew we would be underdogs the moment BTN was announced, but I know that the team has enough skills and tricks to win, not just in the form of cheese. Plus, I believe our team truly has good teamwork, rather than just individual skill. We were not far behind MSU for the rank seed, so expect that game to be very competitive.”
How do you think the team will perform this season?
“I honestly think we will at least get fifth place, but I’m aiming for us to make the playoffs.”
Are there rivalries carried over from traditional sports?
“Yes, especially in between OSU and MU, and IU and Purdue. It’s too bad the match with Purdue won’t happen this year.”
Any other thoughts?
“Honestly, despite being ranked last place in the BTN, this is one of the most successful LoL seasons that the university team has ever had. Every year, the team usually falls apart after one semester playing together. The club has only heavily advertised itself once or twice in the past, and that was just for the Worlds viewing parties. In addition, due to some poor relations that happened in the past between the club and some players, there are several players on campus that are D3+ that don’t know about the team, as well as some high-ranking players that are not a part of the team because of something that happened before my time as a coach of the League team. I’m not pinning all the blame on those reasons, but with everything I’ve had to work against this year, I would say this has been relatively successful so far.”
You can catch IU in action again Michigan State University on Feb. 18, 8:00 p.m. EST. This game will be one of the games streamed over the course of the tournament, with one game selected each week to be featured on BTN2Go. The playoffs will be between the top four teams in each division, with the champions from the East and from the West fighting for a spot in League of Legends College Championship.
Which conference will be the next to create a League of Legends league? Share your thoughts below or tweet us @GAMURScom.
Image via Riot Games.