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LaGrange College hosts online tournament

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

After a weather-delayed start, an online NBA 2K tournament put on by the LaGrange College Sports Management Club went off smoothly.

Dozens of gamers participated in the tournament on Wednesday night, with LaGrange College student and assistant football coach Trent Cook winning the championship.

The tournament, which was broadcast live on Twitch, started a few minutes late because the LaGrange College student who was helping to run things had some technical issues because of a storm.

“From my house, I was running all of the Twitch streams, connecting them all to the main account and trying to watch everything,” said Parker Lancaster, a senior at LaGrange College. “We had a really bad storm come through and it messed up the WiFi, and I was having to do it off my cell phone with the data and everything. For a solid hour, and hour and 30 minutes I was having issues. There was a lot of stuff I wanted to do within the tournament, but that weather came through and knocked all of our systems off.”

Dr. Preston James IV, a professor at LaGrange College who oversees the Sports Management Club, felt that experience provided some valuable real-world experience for the students.

The tournament was run by Lancaster, M.J. Hart, Kaine Baker and Brian Scott.

“In the sports world, things will go wrong,” James said. “We started the broadcast, and what happens? The storm hits. The power went out. So he texted me and I said, well, let’s thing on our feet, and they solved the problem, they got things working on, and it went on. I said that’s an experience you’ll never forget. When you put on this for a real team, you’ll know you can handle it.”

In the days and weeks leading up to the tournament, Lancaster and the other tournament organizers met with some experts in the field of putting on online events, and the advice they received was to be prepared for anything.

“The past three or four weeks we’ve been talking to countless people,” Lancaster said. “That’s one of the biggest things they’ve talked about. You’ve prepared for everything leading up to the tournament. What’s going to happen if the WiFi goes out? What happens if something happens? What are y’all going to do? We honestly were prepared on that part, to be able to react effectively and efficiently to solve most of the issues as they were happening.”

In past years, the students in the Sports Management Club have helped out with some of the biggest sporting events in the world, including the Super Bowl.

The students were supposed to lend a hand at the Final Four in April, but that event was canceled because of the coronavirus.

With no sporting events going on, the students in the Sports Management Club decided to put on the online tournament, with some of the money raised going to a Columbus food bank that serves an area that includes Troup County.

“This is the first tournament LaGrange College hosted where everyone has truly been away, and it has truly been online,” Lancaster said. “It opens up the possibility in the future to do more tournaments.”

Trent Cook, a senior at LaGrange College who was a member of the coaching staff last season, went 4-0 to win the tournament.

“Parker Lancaster, one of my guys I came up with as a freshman, he texted me and asked me if I’d play,” Cook said. “I told him I had a lot of school work to do, but he said they needed people, so I said all right. And it ended up being a blessing in disguise. I’m getting some food money.”

Cook is appreciative of the Sports Management Club for attempting to make a difference.

“I respect everything they’re doing, trying to give people food, and helping the first-line responders, giving them some extra money,” Cook said. “Anything helps.”

The spring would have been a busy time for the Sports Management Club, which was tasked to assist with a handful of events, including the Final Four in Atlanta and the NASCAR race in Hampton. Earlier this year, LaGrange College students assisted with the Super Bowl in Miami, and last year they assisted with the World Cup downhill ski championship.

The idea is to give the students plenty of hands-on training as they prepare for life after college.

“A lot of programs, you study from the book,” Lancaster said. “(James) talks a lot about hands-on experience.

James, who calls himself an edutainor, said “I’m going to educate you, but you’re going to have fun.”

James is also pleased with the initiative the students showed with putting on the online tournament.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’re the only school in the country to be doing this,” James said. “Little LaGrange College, out of every school in the entire nation.”

Lancaster said the goal is to do other tournaments in the future and expand it to different sports including football and auto racing.

“We’re trying to look to do other tournaments in the summer, and going into next year,” Lancaster said. “It’s awesome to lay that foundation in having our first online Esports tournament.”