William Garetto-Balmer named coach as Northern Michigan University esports readies to debut this fall

William Garetto-Balmer

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University has made another move forward as a pioneer in esports by naming its first coach.

The Wildcats hired William Garetto-Balmer, the university announced on May 12, for its inaugural season that begins this fall.

“William has extensive knowledge gained from building and coaching a competitive intercollegiate esports program,” NMU Director of Athletics Forrest Karr said in an NMU sports news release. “His varied background in multiple esports and ideas for collaboration on campus will help us continue to enhance opportunities for Northern students.”

Northern’s esports program is one of eight initiatives approved by the NMU Board of Trustees in December to increase enrollment.

The program will be a member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports. The team will practice and compete in Harden Hall, which will have an area on the first floor renovated to create a state-of-the-art esports venue that includes 30 gaming stations.

A listing on the NACE website, www.nacesports.org, lists 23 members in NCAA Division II, including NMU. Among the other schools on the list are Michigan Tech in the Upper Peninsula, along with fellow GLIAC schools Ashland, Davenport and Northwood and GLIAC affiliate member Upper Iowa. MTU began its program last fall.

Among the schools on the website’s NCAA Division I list are Ohio State, Boise State and Missouri. Other Michigan schools listed by NACE as having esports programs are Alma, Aquinas and Siena Heights.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to expand Northern Michigan University’s esports program,” Garetto-Balmer said. “I aim for the program to be able to compete with the elite of the collegiate esports world.

“I grew up in a traditional sports background all my life and I love the thrill of competition. When I discovered the esports scene, my passion to compete led me to where I am now — committed to making an impact wherever I am given a chance.”

Garetto-Balmer most recently served as coach of the Purpose Gamers Plat & Red Team. With that program, he managed all aspects of the team, including player recruitment, competition and practice scheduling, and competition management.

Last season, Garetto-Balmer coached the Grim Legion Team. From 2017-19, he led the Western Michigan University esports program. At WMU, he rebranded the League of Legends RSO team into a full esports program, helping to raise $500,000 to build an esports arena. He also founded four new esports for the WMU program.

He boasts an overall League of Legends coaching record of 129-56 and a League of Legends Blue-Side mark of 74-22.

Before his time at Western, Garetto-Balmer coached boys tennis and bowling at Marist High School in Chicago.

A 2019 graduate of Western Michigan, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management. While attending WMU, he also was a member of the men’s club volleyball team.

For information on NMU esports, including joining the program, call Garetto-Balmer at 773-571-4552.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)