After a successful inaugural season, St. Ambrose has named Chase Neukam to lead its esports program.
Neukam, who has spent the past five years working in esports at the grassroots and collegiate levels, is currently the director of Paradigm, a virtual reality training facility and esports arena in Davenport.
"Chase is well suited to lead our program, with good experience in esports in general and in particular with esports in the Midwest," St. Ambrose director of athletics Ray Shovlain said. "He’s worked with high school programs in the region and has vast experience in organizing events and leagues."
That combination of traits positioned Neukam to replace Josh Sides as the coach of the Fighting Bees program.
Sides left St. Ambrose last month to become the first head coach of the esports program at Winthrop University.
Over the past year at Paradigm, Neukam has organized and operated more than 50 esports events, including the St. Ambrose High School Esports Championship, a scholarship tournament for eight competing high school League of Legends teams.
He also ran the Acer Invitational, a collegiate League of Legends tournament featuring St. Ambrose and programs from several Big Ten institutions.
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A 2018 graduate of Ball State, Neukam established Cardinal Esports, a collegiate organization at Ball State, which has grown to 80 members and eight competing teams. He also established an esports podcast, The Metagame.
"He will help us continue to build our program," Shovlain said. "The university and athletic department are committed to esports and to building our program the right way."
"When we got into this, research told us that 70-to-80 percent of our prospective student-athletes would likely be involved in STEM programs, which mirror the offerings of our institution. We will continue to pursue recruits who are good fits for our program and institution."
In its first season season, St. Ambrose experienced significant success.
The Fighting Bees finished third at the Harrisburg University Esports Invitational and in the Acer League of Legends Invitational and finished with a 5-1 record in the College League of Legends regular season.
St. Ambrose also built a 21-4 record during the in Tespa Overwatch regular season, including wins over Arizona State, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as well as a win in the Paradigm Overwatch Lighthouse League Tournament, with a victory over Illinois in the championship match.
The Fighting Bees currently compete in both League of Legends and Overwatch. Additional games may be added in the future.