The 2013-14 academic year is in its infancy, and already Oregon athletics has what is sure to remain one of the coolest stories of the year.
Justin Chavarria, a junior practice player for the UO women's basketball team, on Tuesday won $250,000 by besting a national tournament field in the XBox baseball game MLB 2k13.
Chavarria, 21, spent his first season as a practice player for Paul Westhead's program this past winter. His MLB 2k13 preparations began in earnest in April, after the season, and he got some ribbing from the team about the six to eight hours per day he'd spend on his console.
"They'd kind of make fun of me for being a gamer," laughed Chavarria, who has heard from several players and coaches this week. "But when they found out a lot of them were like, 'Wow.' Like everyone else, just, 'No way!' "
Among the other perks of winning the tournament was a chance to attend Tuesday's All-Star game in New York. Chavarria said he intends to splurge on a truck with his winnings, and devote the rest to his tuition and some investments.
And yes, he plans to return to his role as a practice player with the Ducks for his senior year.
"It's been really awesome," Chavarria said of the experience. "I was kind of skeptical going into it, but coach Westhead, (assistant coach Dan) Muscatell, they've just been awesome, and all the girls have been great. Having the opportunity to practice in Matthew Knight Arena and stuff like that, it's been really cool."
The MLB 2k13 tournament didn't overlap with basketball season, luckily for Chavarria. When the Ducks are at home, he spends 10 to 12 hours per week in his role as a practice player.
"If it was during the season, I probably wouldn't have put as much time into the video games," he said. "And probably wouldn't have done as well."