The University of Utah’s esports team made it to the finals in the first ESPN esports championship but lost to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in the “Overwatch” tournament.

The U’s varsity esports team is only two years old, and its “Overwatch” squad headed to its first national collegiate championship as one of the final “Elite Eight” teams in the popular first-person-shooter video game. The team is part of the College of Engineering’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering video game development program.

The squad of six starters and six backup players traveled to Houston for the first ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship, held May 10 – 12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. It is the only national collegiate esports championship in “Overwatch,” and all of the matches were broadcast live on ESPN’s Twitch channel at

Utah’s esports team defeated Rutgers University in the quarter finals and Orange Coast College in the semifinals before losing to Harrisburg, 3 to 1 in the finals.

Set on a technologically advanced, highly stylized future Earth, “Overwatch” is an online multiplayer first-person shooter from developer Blizzard Entertainment in which teams compete against each other across varying playing fields. Depending on the mode of play, the player objectives may include escorting a payload from one point to another or to defend and control an area on the map. Each player in a team of six can choose from a roster of 30 characters and control one of three different types of classes known as “Damage hero,” “Tank hero” or “Support hero.”

The ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship involved tournaments in five different online multiplayer video games, including “Street Fighter V,” “Hearthstone,” “StarCraft II” and “Heroes of the Storm,” in addition to “Overwatch.” Winners will each receive scholarship prize money.

Regular season play for the collegiate championship of “Overwatch” began in January and initially involved more than 550 college teams across the nation. The post season began with the top 64 teams that were whittled down to the final eight. The U’s “Overwatch” team was 7-0 in regular season play before entering the championship.

The U’s esports team consists of four squads, each for the games “Overwatch,” Hearthstone,” “Rocket League” and “League of Legends.” It is the first college-sponsored varsity esports program from any school in a Power Five athletics conference (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern).

The team and the U’s esports program are sponsored by the university’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering  program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the last six years by the Princeton Review.