“That’s not the way it should be done”: Oklahoma eSports community split over OSSAA partnership

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Members of Oklahoma’s eSports community are split over an OSSAA decision that some say could prevent their kids from participating in future competition.

“Key players weren’t involved in a decision that [they] should have been involved in,” said Todd Borland, founder of the Oklahoma eSports League. “We’re not thrilled with their management partner and how that has been chosen.”

The concern lies with PlayVS, a for-profit organization out of California, that will run the OSSAA’s state championships. Many who oppose the decision are frustrated they were left out of the conversation.

“When you have two leagues in the state of Oklahoma operated by Oklahomans for Oklahomans, it only makes sense to contact one or two and get their view on the matter before making such a huge decision,” said Oklahoma Scholastic eSports founder Brian Morris. “Why would you grow [eSports] organically using a third-party company based outside of the state that doesn’t even care about our kids.”

Borland expressed similar concern, pointing out that the current OSSAA model through PlayVS includes a hefty fee to participate.

“We don’t like Oklahoma dollars leaving the state and not going back to our kids,” he said. “We want Oklahoma dollars stay benefitting Oklahoma kids not leaving the state.”

That fee, which will cost $64 per game with a minimum of eight participants (which comes to $512 for competing in just one game), quickly adds up for schools.

“Your big schools will probably be able to throw that out there but these class B, class A schools, they’re probably struggling with their budget as it is,” said Blair High School eSports coach Tyler Gray. “The didn’t welcome any comments from the people that are already currently doing eSports in Oklahoma now.”

Chase Hohnke, the eSports coach at Lomega High School, says the news is already affecting the kids on his roster.

“Every single one of them seemed like they’re gonna quit,” Hohnke said. “I don’t know what were gonna do so I’m gonna try to hold on to [Oklahoma Scholastic eSports] as long as I can and encourage as many schools to join our league to try and keep it going.”

Both coaches also expressed concerns that many of the games Play VS will hold championships for aren’t necessarily ones that will help their students get scholarships. That’s because some of those games on the list aren’t games colleges recruit for.

“To limit kids to just those couple of games is never the option and never a good thing to do,” Gray said.

Amy Cassell with the OSSAA says their involvement isn’t meant to take the place of the tournaments many of these schools are already participating in.

“It is totally a voluntary opportunity for them,” she said. “So if what we’re doing what they would like to do, we’d love them on board, but no one is obligated.”

Cassell says Play VS already has a partnership with the national federation of high school associations.

“That’s why we looked at Play VS to begin with, and we had a lot of meetings with them,” she said. “[We] spoke to a lot of other state associations that are already using them so it did meet the tried, tested and true litmus test when we try to do anything new.”

She also says these schools will get an opportunity to voice their opinions on a board and that it will take time to iron out the issues.

“We will evaluate everything we have done throughout the season and we will take suggestions,” Cassell said.

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