clerkie: "[The players] are not running the show anymore"
In our second to last interview from ESL One New York, Joe "tolkienfanatic" Cardali had a chance to sit down with eUnited's General Manager Dan "clerkie" Clerke. The pair about eUnited's investment into CS:GO, shaking the legacy of being "SnakeUnited", some of their past players, and the future of collegiate CS:GO.
First off, I wanted to get your thoughts on the whole "SnakeUnited" meme and everything that has come with it.
Back when we started our Counter-Strike division, we also had League of Legends and Overwatch going on, we were trying to get into those leagues. Counter-Strike really wasn't in the forefront of my responsibilities for the organization; obviously I run a collegiate program that's a powerhouse, my Overwatch team could beat Overwatch League teams, my League of Legends team was probably the best in the non-LCS. My boss obviously wanted me to focus on those things, so we hired osorandom to coach the team, and I kind of let the people we hired run the roster and stuff. Truth be told, we made a lot of moves based on [what the players wanted].
I think that the way it worked out was so and so wanted to move this guy, so we talked to the rest of the team, the rest of the team agreed, then he talked to the coach, and then the coach talked to me, and I was like, "sure, go for it." That culminated in, how many roster moves did we have, like five? Something stupid. Then we started removing people and then bringing them back, it was just dumb.
We put a lot of resources into moose as a player early on, we bought the Rise Nation roster, but I think that he was the standout for us. A lot of the moves we were making were kind of to prop him up, but what it really ended up doing was creating a really unstable roster. I preach roster stability, the reason why we won [Call of Duty] Champs this year was because we didn't let the roster go their separate ways when they wanted to, five separate times in the last two years.
Now, after all that happened, I've kind of come back and I've said this is how it's going to go - this is after moose decided to bench himself by the way - you guys are not running the show anymore, if you want to do something, you ask me, and I will tell you if are allowed to do that or not, and that is how it's going to work moving forward. Obviously, this is because we didn't get into [Call of Duty League], and so we're going to be reallocating our resources into things that are important for the organization, that being CS and Smash and things like that now.
I'm going to be stepping in and doing a lot more to bring some stability to our team and actually let the investment grow to fruition. You can make moves like that when you're a tier one team that's won Majors and you have like five players that have won Majors, like coldzera to FaZe, but when you have five guys that have never won before, that don't know how to win because they haven't done it before, you need roster stability.
Every time you have roster instability, when you get a new guy on the team, you're basically starting from zero, and you're not really going to go anywhere, you're just going to stay at the same level. Hopefully we can win the trust back for the fans, and we can get them to realize that we're in this for the long haul, it's not just kind of a meme, "SnakeUnited" *laughs*.
The SnakeUnited stuff, so basically, the team said, "we want Cooper-". I actually didn't even know that Cooper- and freakazoid were brothers at this point. I was like, "okay, you want me to go get Cooper-, I'll go get Cooper-." So, I got Cooper- on the team, and then all of a sudden I saw the Twitch clip from freakazoid and I was like, "oh my god, what the f-, what did you guys just make me do?" *laughs* I actually was like what happened, this is the worst PR possible, what is happening?! It's pretty weird how it worked out now, he's playing with us, which is pretty cool.
You guys had a little bit of a run of bad PR there, obviously there was also the whole osorandom situation. Is there anything you can talk about regarding that?
I will just say that a lot of times, people do dumb stuff, really stupid stuff, and you think one thing about another person and it turns out that they're somebody else. The moment that I heard about that personally, I called [eUnited owner] Adam [Stein], I was at a wedding, and I said, "you've got to fire this guy now, cause we can't tolerate this." I don't tolerate this, and no one that works for us should tolerate this, this isn't something that we should endorse.
Those are things that I can't really foresee as a [General Manager], sometimes things happen, sometimes people do dumb things, and you just gotta move on from that. After that, we had a really rough time, I think I ended up coaching at Katowice because we couldn't find a coach in time. We're lucky we have a2z, a2z is doing a good job. Our whole CS program, everyone is in the same spot, everybody is learning. We're not the best in the world. We came to this event, we didn't win a map, but I think we played a couple of close maps against some really good teams, so I think we're showing some promise.
Is it encouraging for you to see people like vice and Ethan, and people that have played for eUnited...
Yeah and even before eUnited I had koosta and [Relyks]. I'll be honest, when you think of me as a GM and my strengths, my knowledge of games like I'm really good at [League of Legends] and Overwatch and other games like that, but Counter-Strike is a game that I've always kind of struggled to get to that top level and I've always had teams that are kind of in that tier 2, tier 3, not quite tier 1 level. I'm learning too, and it's hard for me, but we'll get there one day as a team.
Are you still involved with Maryville at all? Can you talk about the collegiate scene and how that's going?
Yeah. The reason why I started the Maryville program was to kind of give a place where... half the battle for a lot of these kids is educating their parents to what they're trying to do. They don't really understand it, especially when you're not making money doing it, so if you tell your parents "I am getting a full ride", it's a lot easier to get them to get on board. The idea is, especially in tier 2, in pro, players are signing dumb, $1,000 a month contracts, $2,000 a month contracts, they're not going to school to have these contracts, that's stupid, it's not good for your future.
The goal for Maryville is to build such a powerhouse that beats tier 2 teams in different games, even tier 1 teams, and we produce enough pro players that actually go to the pro level that a lot of schools start to try to mimic what we're doing in order to stay competitive, and it redefines tier 2 as an esport. I want to build and be consistent with helping you to go into the scene, you get your degree, and then you can go straight to pro.
What do you think about the current state of collegiate Counter-Strike right now?
I think the current state of collegiate Counter-Strike is pretty bad. CSL does a great job running events, they're a great thing for the scene, but what's really important for the collegiate ecosystem for these titles is that the developer directly buys into these things. Everyone been asking for Valve to directly support and grow Counter-Strike forever, even on the pro level, but I think in order for Counter-Strike to really grow to fruition in collegiate, they especially have to do this. I'm not going to give the kid a full ride unless I know for a fact that this league is going to be here four years from now. I don't want to have to tell a kid, "you know what, the league's gone" two years into his degree, and he's not able to finish it out, so Maryville won't get any games that actually give substantial scholarships unless the developers directly bought in. I think a lot of the onus is on Valve to get involved.
The other part of it that this is a tough game to sell to liberal universities, because there's guns, counter-terrorists - Stanford will never have a team in this game. Pac-12, they were one or two votes away from passing the League of Legends league that's similar to what Bank 10 has. I can't even imagine those schools that turned down League of Legends having a conversation about Counter-Strike.
Last one for you here. If you pay attention to the broader scene, you'd know that there's an arms race going on to get into like, Overwatch League, league spots, and Call of Duty, you mentioned you guys missed out on that. What do you think it means for the stability of the scene that these organizations that have been here for a long time are getting effectively priced-out?
I think money is a good thing for the scene. I think too much money will lead to kind of a "down period", where we get a market correction. I think that's healthy too, it's good for an industry. While these leagues, there's always debate of whether or not Overwatch League is a good investment, CDL is a good investment, and I think that they're necessary for the really serious brands to be involved in because, I think five to ten years from now, there's going to be like 30 big brands that make the lion's share of the revenue in the industry. The rest of the teams in the world will be relegated to tier 2, tier 3 games, and in order to stay there, you have to stay relevant, you have to stay prevalent, you have to be at the top, involved with the developers, talking to the developers, being respected and known not only by the developers and by the fans, but I think that's why there is kind of an arms race going on; a lot of people recognize this. What worries me though is just some of the evaluations that some of these orgs are raising at, they just don't make sense.
I'm worried for when some of these organizations end up having a down round, which they will because there's a sparse amount of revenue in the industry right now. I do think that esports is gonna be here forever and is going to be the biggest form of entertainment in 50, probably less than 50 years. It's going to keep growing, but it's a matter of... let's not raise too much money too fast.
eUnited's next event will be ESL Pro League Season 10, where they have been drawn into Group B alongside Cloud9, Complexity, and Evil Geniuses.
On a related note, clerkie is currently hospitalized with a serious case of food poisoning. We here at Dust2.us wish him a speedy recovery.