“Like paying for a really expensive LAN cafe” – The Downfall of Davenport

Despite a glowing public reputation, many players report broken promises and feeling lied to.

On March 27th, Davenport University's team seemingly imploded out of nowhere, with the majority of the lineup abruptly leaving in the wake of head coach Colin "koi" Thor's own exit a few days earlier. How could this happen? To many in the NA scene, Davenport University was viewed as a trailblazer for collegiate CS:GO, being the first team to realize the goal of competing and being successful in mainstream competitions. Unfortunately, this stellar achievement does not tell the whole story of the players, coaches, and support staff, many of whom feel the university broke promises and failed to live up to their expectations.

Over fifteen names attached to the dissolved collegiate Davenport University CS:GO project have come forward to Dust2.us to discuss their varied experiences at Davenport. The majority of the conversations concluded with allegations of broken promises, gross mismanagement, and negligence by the upper management, with Director of Esports Colin Graham named as the alleged driving force behind the lack of resources and support given by the university to their players.

These conversations also unearthed a slew of drama and conflict between one or more players, damaging the social fabric of the three divisions beyond repair due to the alleged lack of resources or interest in mending bridges from the Director of Esports, according to these sources.

Starting with broken promises, reports claim the teams were promised scholarship increases based on tenure and success, which never came to fruition despite the division one team qualifying to ESL Challenger League and winning ESEA Advanced. A performance and tenure-based incentive is something that would be especially useful in the case of Davenport University and its athletes when assessing the eye-popping tuition.

At the time of publication, one semester at the college costs $13,920, a massive bill compared to the $4,500 in athletic scholarship funding that many DU players claimed to have received – a number that would end up not increasing despite being pitched otherwise. As a result, incoming talent would have to find funding through financial aid or private loans despite being sought out as CS talent recruits for the college. One source claimed they paid for 60% of their tuition during their time with Davenport.

Another major source of concern, one that many players allege was not brought to their attention, was the accreditation status of the University. Through conversation, many Davenport players confirmed their lack of exposure or explicit conversations regarding the college’s accreditation status. Davenport currently operates as a regionally accredited organization, meaning class credits may not be valuable to another college following a transfer. Players claim to have not received this information upon joining the college, entering the program unaware of the potential for the credits to not transfer should they leave the school.

Players were also reportedly pitched on the notion that professional players and talent would make visits on occasion, with the floated idea of potential seminars happening. This alleged promise did not come to pass unfortunately, with the only crossovers being a visit from Jason “Moses” O’Toole and a demo review by Liquid star Jonathan “EliGE” Jablanowski, two individuals who have publicly supported the University’s CS:GO mission throughout. Multiple interviewed sources also reported being pitched on the potential opportunity to commit to a European boot camp, something that also did not materialize.

These alleged broken promises are enough to start raising some red flags, but a slew of other reported oddities plagued the growth of the program according to these sources. Multiple players reportedly were recruited to play for one of the Davenport rosters without proper vetting of academic eligibility, university acceptance, or even league restrictions. One player claims to have been brought into the team without being cleared for the relevant events mentioned in their pitch to bring them in.

In another story of lax educational standards, sources close to the specific situation claim a player was recruited and accepted to play for Davenport without confirmation of academic acceptance, something that would be denied after moving to Michigan. As a result, these same sources claim ED Graham forced an attending student to house the non-student in their residence and even drive the non-student to University facilities to play CS.

Although the program did not start with him, there was a massive injection in public interest and popularity following the joining of Davenport by Colin “koi” Thor in January 2022. It was after the acquisition of koi that Davenport saw a signing of notable talent that bolstered the team to ECL heights on multiple occasions, including players that carry relevance today. According to the parties involved, it was when the team continued succeeding that the issues within the program began to manifest and come to the forefront.

As it was laid out, the general consensus from those talked to was as the program succeeded and required more resources, ED Graham grew frustrated with the number of resources allocated specifically to CS:GO, something that was confirmed with Dust2.us by way of shared internal conversations.

Suspicion about recruitment practices by management was made evident when conversing with former players, with many of them questioning the alleged financial motives of the ED for pushing ahead with a ballooned player roster despite not expanding on the staff to support it. At the peak, Davenport boasted three five-man rosters with three volunteer coaches underneath koi, the lone individual receiving a salary to oversee the operations. The efforts of the coaching staff were enough to get them so far, but a fundamental lack of resources and interest in help from their governing body put them in a bind.

This is not the opinion of external minds, as multiple former players carry these same sentiments. One talent said, “The coaching staff as well did their best with the minimal resources they were given to accommodate so many people.” Another supported that consensus, stating the coaches weren’t “given the tools necessary to fully make the ‘DU dream’ a reality.” One former member pulled no punches, rating the program management as “bad” from a director “that doesn’t know what he is doing.” When describing their wasted experience, one stated it was overall “like paying for a really expensive LAN cafe.”

Getting help was hard too, as one player mentioned the outright inability to receive communication or support from ED Graham, specifically noting a time they felt Graham failed them during struggles with mental health. Deteriorating mental health served as a common theme amongst these young players, with multiple openly noting after leaving campus permanently following the fallout that they sought counseling to work through the troubles faced during their tenure with the program.

Things were nearing rock bottom internally despite the successes being presented to the public. But no news was heavier on Davenport than the departure of the coach and the glue of the CS:GO branch, koi, following personal issues that demanded his attention. With fifteen-plus players with no full-time coach available and a director with no interest in the program, volunteer staff was left to pick up the slack until koi returned. As history showed, his return would not come to fruition.

The straw that broke the camel's back was a meeting that happened just a couple of weeks ago with the remnants of the Davenport University CS:GO division, where they were discussing the current events and future of the team following koi’s departure, to which the remaining students were met with major pushback from ED Graham. At the meeting, sources claim the talent body was told of the option to pull resources from CS:GO, partially or altogether, despite it being the most successful division of DU esports.

A major contention point for Graham was reportedly the teams’ having so many coaches, despite three of them being volunteers. The success of the program did not serve as a motivating factor for ED Graham, with an aforementioned direct quote from the meeting logs provided to Dust2.us stating “Personal takeaway: Collegiate esports is easier when you suck aren’t the most competitive.” With the true source of ambition away for personal matters and the ED expressing disinterest in the future of the leftover players, there was no one left to carry the torch for Davenport.

The tragedy of Davenport’s abrupt end is an amalgamation of overexpansion of talent under dubious circumstances, a lack of resources forcing one staff member and a set of volunteers into a cycle of overwork, and management that allegedly failed to provide the support necessary for the project to succeed. The machine was operating on stilts and once real-life issues affected the day-to-day, the foundation was not strong enough to support itself and collapsed.

From a collegiate standpoint, Davenport served as an inspiration for the inception of Fisher College’s and Northwood University’s CS:GO divisions, now homes to other notable players inside the ESEA Advanced and ECL space. However, there was a level of dysfunction and mismanagement that is on theme with the rest of esports despite the academic space typically serving as one of safety for the student.

At the range of $10-20 thousand-plus a year in tuition after scholarships billed between five and fifteen players with just two reportedly graduating from the college, and now none of the players sticking together after the fact, one has to wonder if the project was a failure for the students. As it stands, the current drama overshadows any career prospects they have, amassed debt to play CS:GO in a dysfunctional landscape and walked away without a college degree.

At the time of publication, Dust2.us reached out to ED Graham multiple times for comment with no response. Graham has been quiet on Twitter regarding the fallout of the recent CS:GO program, but that does not necessarily mean DU is out of CS. Rumors around the DU camp claim there is an intention to rebuild again, something one former member is making sure any potential newcomers are fully informed of before jumping into. “They’re gonna rebuild. I warn everybody that considers going to Davenport. Be careful.”

Update: Any earlier version of this story erroneously classified Colin Graham as the Athletic Director when Graham's position within Davenport University is the Director of Esports. We apologize for the error.

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#1(With 0 replies)
April 5, 2023 05:43PM
I hope this doesn't turn people off from collegiate cs. The scene is great for 95% of teams and you can really get alot from it but there's always going to be bad programs
#2(With 0 replies)
April 5, 2023 07:20PM
"Davenport currently operates as a regionally accredited organization, meaning class credits may not be valuable to another college following a transfer."

This is a factual error - in the US, regional accreditation is more prestigious than the alternative of national accreditation (although it's still not a high bar to clear).
Davenport is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission who for example also accredit the University of Michigan and Michigan State. Davenport credits may not transfer to other schools, but this is going to be because of reasons unrelated to regional accreditation.
#3(With 0 replies)
April 5, 2023 11:12PM
Accreditation is weird and the biggest issue going on, though that's one of understanding and communication first and foremost. I'd say that the biggest failure of the Davenport system is that only two players graduated from the school. But I'll be honest, that's not just the school's fault.

I fully bought into the narrative of DU being huge for reviving the NA scene, but their number one priority should always have been on getting the students a proper education and a degree to set them up for their later lives. Likewise, the players attending should have recognized that as the point of a collegiate team.

Hope the best for everyone involved.
#4(With 0 replies)
April 6, 2023 10:36AM
damn davenport really wasnt it
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