Thanks to an anonymous donor,
The University of Oklahoma will be offering scholarships for students “as soon as Spring 2021” according to a press release from the university.
The press release, originally drafted by Sooner Esports’s own Michela Thompson, posted today announced groundbreaking news for the Oklahoma esports community. The OU department of Esports & Co-curricular Innovation is able to directly give back to the students who have driven the organization’s growth while funding future members through academic scholarships. Scholarship recipients are to include student leadership, competitive players, streaming entertainment, shoutcasting, community organizers, writers, and more! The scholarships are named for a student who passed in 2011 and are officially called The Forest Dayne “Solidus” Sharpe Scholarships.
Who we are
The OU Esports Club began in 2017 as a student organization, tapping into the ecstatic energy of those interested in gaming & esports. After a year, the club was recognized as a competitive organization, giving it further legitimacy. The in-house documentary OU XP goes into much more detail on these important initial moments.
Finally, last fall, OU Student Affairs elevated OU Esports Club to its current status: The Department of Esports & Co-curricular Innovation. Hosting 1,700+ members in its Discord, weekly events & streams, regular charity outreach, and a continual competitive pulse, esports has stayed thriving on campus despite it all. We at Sooner Esports, the Media & News extension of this, have bolstered our production this past year by adding new members and new types of content.
Why this matters
The decision here at OU is important to its students but makes it stand out amongst other collegiate esports programs.
Firstly, funding is the culmination of years of work driven by students for students. It is the promise finally coming to fruition that began at the founding of the club. This is crucial, as it rewards those who put their blood, sweat, and tears into making OU Esports what it is today while proving that the organization has the drive necessary to persevere.
So then, what does OU Esports need if it already has drive? The tools — i.e., the funding — to really showcase what fully-fledged and fully-realized esports at OU will look like.
Secondly, OU stands out not just because it has esports scholarships. Rather, OU Esports stands out because of what specifically they are funding. A further breakdown is below, but in essence, the esports department plans to not only give scholarships to its competitive players, but it aims to give funding to all of its other non-competitive pillars: Community, Leadership, Media & News, Shoutcasting, and Streaming.
Esports is an entire industry, not just its competitive members, and the department reflects this in its pillars and its funding.
Forest “Solidus” Dayne Sharp
Forest Dayne “Solidus” Sharp, the namesake of the incoming scholarship, was an alum at the University of Oklahoma. Solidus graduated in 2007 but continued into his masters. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 28 and was posthumously awarded his Master’s in 2012.
In 2018, at an event hosted at OU called Super Bit Wars, Ricky “Timmy Skorcher” McNeal, owner and operator of HXC Gaming Events and one of our partners, shared the Solidus story with us. McNeal taught us about our own history at OU which predates the 2016 start of the OU Esports Club & 2020 Esports and Co-Curricular Innovation developments by well over a decade. This legacy story and tribute has been in the works since we learned about him.
Despite our developments starting after Solidus’s time, the culture and intent of our timeline echos the very culture and goals he set out to achieve. Solidus’ influence shines through in Oklahoma gaming communities now, and it is instilled in the values of OU Esports. The importance of community, of fun, and of friendship, remains a defining core of the mission for the department and the club.
To honor Solidus achievements and memories, we sought to memorialize him in more than just name. We framed an OU Esports official jersey and delivered it to Gretchen “Momma Solidus” Evans, in front of Evans Hall. The event was recorded.
Offers breakdown and announced titles
The OU Department of Esports & Co-Curricular Innovation plans to continue expansion of scholarships past the 21-22 school year but here is what is confirmed scholarship roles for 2021-2022. Amounts, quantities, and criteria will be outlined in May/June 2021.
For the competitive pillar, the organization announced the first titles to receive funding will be Rocket League, Valorant, Overwatch, and League of Legends. Also of note is that the competitive coaches will be provided a stipend to start recruitment efforts needed across those titles for Fall 2021 and onward.
There are two types of scholarships: Primary & Secondary.
Primaries reflect scholarships for the six main pillars.
- Solidus Leadership – This award finds and enables high achieving students capable of keeping OU’s esports and gaming community and operations developments in tune with culture needs and business evolution. It is a job posting that keeps the leadership ranks of the club efforts filled as well as the departmental needs of the university moving forward.
- Solidus Ambassador – Awarded to students who showcase community focused leadership ability and willingness to host events that are both big and small that create inclusive programming for the diverse interests of gamers collectively. Tournament and community operators are the foundation of communities abroad. Without good event coordinators there are no events, opportunities for engagement, or business opportunities for sponsorship.
- Solidus Media & News – Awarded to students who have shown a desire to report, interview, and cover industry-wide and local events alike. These candidates are journalists who may have skills in creative media production, event coverage, professional writing and/or public relations.
- Solidus Persona – Awarded to students who possess the ability to announce live broadcasts leveraging vocal inclination, emotional draw and real-time storytelling to elevate gameplay and produce marketable productions. Students with the ability to handle the backend of production are also considered.
- Solidus Influencer – Awarded to students who have deep interests in leveraging live streaming as a means to grow personal and affiliated brands and provide entertainment through influencing the community to relate to our brand and culture as well as be an extension of our diverse collective.
- Solidus Challenger – Awarded to students who possess the talents of high tier gameplay similar to how we scout conventional athletes to develop teams for national representation and success.
Secondaries award exemplary students in gaming & esports from disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds.
- Solidus First Generation Gamer – This additional award is designed to bolster opportunities for first generation students in addition to the primary awards of interest. This is aimed at growing adoption in the topic for first generation college students that have talents and desires in gaming and esports and a direct answer to providing aid to ensure equalization of prospective opportunities.
- Solidus Woman in Gaming & Esports – This additional award is designed to bolster opportunities for first women in gaming and esports students in addition to the primary awards of interest. This is aimed at growing adoption against gender based inequality that have talents and desires in gaming and esports. It serves as a direct answer to providing emphasis on balancing and correcting the unequal representation of women in our space. This award was created from inspiration and direct feedback of women in our programs since creation.
Spring 2021 Solidus Scholars
OU announced, effective for the Spring 2021 semester, that OU Esports leadership and coaches of development titles will be receiving scholarships. The following are the award recipients, the first ever to receive esports scholarships at the University of Oklahoma.
- Jasmine Graves, President
- Bachelor of Business in Management Informations Systems, Class of 2021
- Kaleb “Slawdini” Slawson, Vice President
- Bachelor of Science in Information Science & Technology, Class of 2022
- Zachary “Thunderbird” Satz, Marketing Director
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art, Technology, & Culture, Class of 2022
- Joey “Archie” Yeager, Community Director
- Bachelor of Finance, Class of 2023
- Kara “Kel” Kelbright, Community Outreach Coordinator
- Master of Arts in International Studies, Class of 2021
- Jonathan “RadPanda” Hudson, Intercollegiate Esports Director
- Bachelor of Science in Meteorology, Class of 2023
- Derek “DefectSnow” Snow, Media & News Director
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Class of 2023
- Matthew “Silverplussonic” Miller, Streaming Entertainment Director
- Bachelor of Science in Meteorology, Class of 2022
- Austin “RexGoDragon” Nguyen, Production Director
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Class of 2022
- Chris “Chriseh” Arterberry, Head Coach of Rocket League
- Master of Accounting Major, Class of 2021
- Justin “Bardo” Lombardo, Head Coach of Valorant
- Bachelor of Business Management Information Systems, Class of 2016 Alum
- Joshua “Thumper” Riesenberg, Head Coach of Overwatch
- Bachelor of Musical Arts, Class of 2022
- Joseph “Himana” Savala, Head Coach of League of Legends
- Bachelor of Social Work, Class of 2019 Alum
An ou.edu/esports site is now live, solidifying a place for esports officially dedicated online. This also means there will be an extensive rework of sooneresports.org, with more information to come.
An esports and gaming venue has been confirmed, with no official date set as of now. The extra time taken is to ensure that the venue will be a state-leading lab that suits every pillar – not just competitive.
The press release also mentions that OU will be pushing for curriculum and research related to gaming and esports. This is huge, and pushing for their academics to look into these topics could put Oklahoma closer to the forefront.
Find more information from the University of Oklahoma here .
On behalf of fellow leadership, I want to thank so many people for getting us here. Thank you to Solidus, whose execution on campus was meaningful and before his time but reminds us we cannot take any of this for granted. Thank you to my other leaders who inspire me every day with their drive, talent, and passion. Thank you to the OU gaming community for always supporting us and continuing to make this school a fun place to be. Thank you to OU Student Affairs for seeing us as a force for community & fun. And thanks to the sponsor for funding the esports dream here at OU.
I’m honored to be among the first of hopefully many, many recipients of the Solidus scholarships. To future OU students, we are working tirelessly on the shoulders of giants to build a program here that you will love and enjoy.
This is momentous, and I think we are going to prove that investing more than just money & players in an esports program will prove to be a massive success for students — and OU.
Live On, University