2018 was a big year for the now billion-dollar eSports industry, with games such as Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends leading the way. These three games alone have generated more than $300 million in prize money to date. With so much at stake, top colleges and universities around the country are looking to get into the game in 2019, by adding team video game competition to their intercollegiate athletic offerings.
Today, we would like to tell you about three schools that are set to become one of around 100 institutions across the country with a varsity eSports team. According to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), just seven colleges and universities had varsity eSports programs in 2016.
We are pleased to announce that Alma College, Cornell College, and the University of Missouri have joined the growing number of institutions nationwide with an eSports team. Here you go.
Alma College, Alma, Michigan
Alma College has become one of the latest schools in the midwestern region to launch an eSports program. The school will compete as a newly accepted member of NACE, with competition beginning in Fall 2019. In an Alma Newsroom press release, Director of Athletics Steven Rackley said, “the number of colleges and universities with eSports teams has grown significantly over the past five years. We are thrilled that Alma will be the first Division III-level school in Michigan to compete in eSports. Embracing eSports allows Alma College to continue attracting top students while providing an innovative pathway for students to succeed academically and professionally.”
The new program will complement the Alma’s existing academic and co-curricular offerings, including guided academic tracks for game design and sports communication, the new media studies major, and student organizations like the Alma College Gaming Guild. Sanford, Michigan native Christopher Gaumond was named head coach and will lead all aspects of developing the varsity program, including “recruiting qualified student-athletes, scheduling, instructing players in strategies and performance principles, and coaching the team at tournaments and competitions,” says the school.
The new coach has as solid background in the eSports arena. He helped establish an eSports club team at Central Michigan University (CSU), competing three years as a player and coaching two years.
“This is a dream come true,” said Gaumond. “I’m overjoyed to be selected to lead Alma’s program. I look forward to working closely with all of the fantastic people at Alma College and expressing my passion for this field through my work.”
Established in 1886, Alma College serves around 1,450 students from 30 states and eight foreign countries. The school offers More than 50 academic programs leading to the BA, BS, BSN, BFA, or Bachelor of Music, plus the chance to design your own program of study. Alma College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (NCA).
Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa
Cornell College is all set to launch an eSports program with competition beginning Fall 2019. According to the Cornel College News Center, in early Fall 2018, “President Jonathan Brand asked a task force of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to research the opportunity.” Following several months of “study and discussion, including a campus forum,” the task force recommended that Cornell sponsor an eSports program, beginning with one of the most popular intercollegiate games, Overwatch.
Task force member and Professor of Theatre Scott Olinger said Overwatch has “a player base on campus and has won numerous awards for its creative, team-based gameplay.” Olinger also said he is “excited about the educational opportunities eSports could bring to campus in the future.”
“The gaming world has many links to the educational world; most games are now cinematic, interactive experiences that employ designers, writers, voice actors, coders, engineers, and a variety of other professionals,” Olinger said. “Entering the world of eSports opens up possibilities to link our educational programs to this growing industry.”
The Cornell eSports team will be recognized as a college-sponsored sport, with daily practices that involve team-building activities, scrimmaging, and strategizing. eSports team members will devote the same number of hours to their sport as traditional student-athletes. “The team will have academic requirements for continued participation, a weekly physical regimen, and a community service commitment.”
Cornell College is currently searching for a head coach for its new eSports team.
Founded in 1853, Cor nell College serves 1,000 students from 42 states and 17 foreign countries. The school offers more than 40 academic majors and pre-professional programs, and an unlimited number of individualized majors. Cornell follows a unique “One Course At A Time” curriculum, that allows students to immerse themselves in just one academic discipline per three-and-a-half-week block. Cornell College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri
The University of Missouri (Mizzou or MU) has just announced that it will be launching an eSports program next Fall. The game of choice for the team is Overwatch, and it will be led by interim coach Kevin Reape—a world-ranked video game player and top 10 percent of Overwatch players. The new eSports team (the Mizzou Tigers) will practice and compete in the school’s Center Hall, “which will now be one of the largest university gaming facilities in the nation,” reports the Missourian.
The school has joined NACE, “making it one of the largest universities in the country to launch a program and the first Southeastern Conference school to do so.” The school has already selected its first team member, Arabella McEntire—considered one of the best Overwatch players in the nation.
In a University of Missouri News Bureau report MU Executive Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions Chuck May said, “providing this opportunity to students will not only expand MU’s wide spectrum of interest areas but also place the university as a frontrunner in the eSports industry.”
“Prospective students have been asking about eSports for years,” he said, “we are excited for the great potential this program and team will provide our campus. We hope by offering this program, more students can pursue their passions while studying at Mizzou.” McEntire, the daughter of computer programmers and a gamer since the age of three, said she is “delighted” to be the first player named to the Tigers inaugural eSports team.
“I’m really looking forward to the team aspect — learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and figuring out how to work best together as a team,” said McEntire, who noted that Overwatch teams typically are made up of six players. “I’ve already really enjoyed my time at Mizzou, but this is going to make the experience that much more amazing.”
eSports at MU will not be affiliated with the athletic department. It will be administered through student affairs and a scholarship program is currently in the works.
Founded in 1839, University of Missouri was the first public university west of the Mississippi River and the first in Louisiana Purchase territory. The school, which serves around 22,500 students, offers 320 degrees and certificates through 21 colleges and schools. The University's regional accreditation is through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).