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 Howard University Wins $80,000 at Esports Call of Duty Tournament

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Howard Cold Steel Call of Duty team after winning Mountain Dew Real Change Challenge. Photo from Jada Stevens.

The Howard University Call of Duty team, Cold Steel, emerged victorious and took home an $80,000 share of the $500,000 prize pool in the 2023 Mountain Dew Real Change esports tournament held in Atlanta, Georgia at the end of Black history month. 

“The MTN DEW Real Change Challenge is an extension of MTN DEW’s commitment to investing and uplifting Black entrepreneurs through the MTN DEW Real Change Opportunity Fund, which launched in 2021. The MTN DEW Real Change Challenge supported Black gamers at HBCUs by sponsoring a nationwide HBCU esports tournament, in partnership with CXMMUNITY,” a Mountain Dew representative told The Hilltop.

This was a historic win for the Bison, not only due to the monetary prize but the execution of the league’s mission that founded the tournament.

Cxmmunity Media, which founded the HBCU Esports league, has a mission to future-proof diversity in esports. The league provides opportunities for HBCUs to compete and showcase their skills in esports. This mission aligns perfectly with Howard University’s values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This win not only brings attention to Howard’s esports program but also highlights the importance of promoting diversity in the esports industry.

Christopher Peay, the Cxmmunity Media CMO, attributed Howard’s success to the team’s commitment from day one. “Howard’s success was no surprise to me. The team bought in immediately,” Peay told The Hilltop. The staff at Howard’s disposal was also credited as being vital to the squad’s winning ways. “Having the students is big, but having an active faculty advisor is really big. Howard definitely has that in Ms. Deborah Johnson,” Peay added.

Vital to Cold Steel’s success was senior marketing major Deante Taylor. Prior to the final round, Taylor could not help but think back to the beginning of their journey. In their first competition, which was a Fortnite tournament, Taylor recalled, “…we had no proper system setups, no proper equipment. We were even on dorm Wi-Fi.”

This school year, with the help of Gaming Cxmmunity Co. and Verizon, Howard University was able to launch a brand new esports lab. The facilities and commitment to the sport were certainly crucial to Cold Steel’s ability to perform at an elite level.

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Howard University’s esports lab inside the Blackburn Center. Photo from @HUStudentaffair via Twitter.

Howard’s lab is one of 11 esports labs that Gaming Cxmmunity Co. has helped to build. Founded by HBCU graduates, the company has gone from a network of two schools to 35 in just three years of activity. Partnerships with brands such as Mountain Dew have allowed them to host tournaments and build labs so they can improve the accessibility of HBCU gaming on a larger scale.

The tournament was not an easy win for the Bison, as they faced stiff competition from a field of fifteen other talented HBCU programs across the country. The team showed resilience and determination throughout the tournament which lasted months. The players put in hours of preparation that paid off in the end.

Something unique about Howard’s Cold Steel team is that it features diverse members. One of these members, Reese Samuel, competes in another sport for Howard University as he is a member of the NEC champion swim team. Peay recalled witnessing Samuel’s execution of his multiple commitments saying, “I remember one of Howard’s players, Reese, flying back and forth between a swim meet and a match being held in Atlanta. That kind of thing is really cool to see.” Samuel is equally excited to compete in both, noting the pride that is shared within the Call of Duty team. 

“Being on the team has been great. We have a lot of team spirit and pride in what we do. It feels good to be seen and noticed. Outside of that, I love the environment that the team creates,” Samuel said.

Along with bringing pride to the Howard community, the Bison have shown they are a force to be reckoned with in the esports industry.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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