Its official—esports has taken over college athletic departments around the globe, with nearly 200 U.S. colleges alone offering around $15 million per year in scholarships for the esports elite. This figure was less than $5 million for the 2015-2016 academic year. And even high schools are getting in on the game, with a reported $46 million raised from investors such as Adidas and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs.
As the popularity of esports continues to grow, so will the number of colleges with varsity teams ready to compete. Today, we would like to tell you about seven.
We are pleased to announce that Albright College, DeSales University, Elizabethtown College, McMurry University, Park University, SUNY Canton, and University of Montevallo have joined the nation’s growing number of schools with varsity esports programs. Here you go.
Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania
Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania has announced the launch its esports team, with competition beginning this spring. This will be Albright’s 24th varsity sport and the first to be coed. Three games will be played at the collegiate level - Overwatch, Hearthstone, and of course, League of Legends. Hearthstone is a two-player game, while the other games require teams of players to compete together.
The program will be similar to other sports at the school. There will be a head coach and assistant coaches for each of the three games, and the team will have practices inside a newly constructed space the school’s Schumo Center for Fitness and Well-Being. When the team begins competing in the spring against other schools around the country, fans will be able to watch the matches online.
Albright’s esports team joins seven other schools in Pennsylvania that are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). They include Lebanon Valley College, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Juniata College, Lackawanna College, Delaware Valley University, Edinboro University, and DeSales University.
DeSales University, Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Come this spring, the DeSales University Bulldogs will add esports as a varsity sport. With the addition of the coed team, DeSales will have a total of 20 varsity sports (10 women’s, nine men’s and now, one coed). The Bulldog’s will compete as a member of NACE as well as in the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s (ECAC) Intercollegiate Esports competitions. The first game that the team will compete in this spring is League of Legends, followed by Overwatch in the fall.
The University is in the process of constructing a dedicated team space in the Northeast corner of the school’s Dorothy Day Student Union building. Per the Department, the space will be “dedicated to the athletes on the esports team to comply with NACE regulations and will not be open to regular DeSales students.” DeSales is currently searching for a head coach with competitive knowledge in League of Legends and/or Overwatch.
Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Elizabethtown College has announced the launch of an esports team, which, according to campus news source E-town Now, “marks one of the first Landmark Conference Esports ventures at the NCAA Division III level.” Five fellow Landmark Institutions including Catholic University, Drew University, Goucher College, Juniata College and Moravian College, will also sponsor teams.
Elizabethtown College Vice President of Student Life Dr. Celestino Limas said, “we’re excited to offer this unique experience for our students as we realize the entire community benefits from having competitive gaming on campus. We look forward to seeing our esports program develop new ways to engage with today’s college students.”
There are currently 17 students on E-town’s esports team, with competition for 2019 beginning with League of Legends.
McMurry University, Abilene, Texas
The McMurry University Board of Trustees has approved the addition of esports to the school’s varsity athletics program. McMurry is the first university in Abilene, Texas to add an esports program launching fall 2019. The team, the War Hawks, has plans to compete in the National Association of Collegiate Esports in the games Overwatch and League of Legends.
Five other Texas schools offer esports including Jarvis Christian College, Schreiner University, Texas Wesleyan University, University of North Texas, and the University of Texas at Dallas. Concordia University Texas also plans to launch a program in fall 2019.
McMurry University is seeking a coach, with a goal to field a 12-member roster in fall 2019. The school plans to more than double that number in fall 2020.
Park University, Parkville, Missouri
Park University has started the Kansas City area’s first collegiate esports program. When the coed program begins in spring 2019, it will compete in one of seven esports currently offered through NACE—League of Legends. Additional esports games will be offered in fall 2019, along with scholarship opportunities.
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Shane Smeed said, “by initiating this program, we are positioning Park University’s athletics program for the future of digital competition. The investment Park is putting toward this program is in line with the University’s innovative foundations.”
In addition to competitive gaming, the esports program will provide support for educational and intramural opportunities at the University’s flagship Parkville Campus, and for students at Park’s 40+ other campuses nationwide and online worldwide. “Tie-ins to for-credit courses and leveraging connections for professional play will also be possible,” explained Director for Student Engagement, Ben Zibers.
SUNY Canton, Canton, New York
The State University of New York Canton (SUNY Canton) has a new esports team that is already competing with about 40 other colleges and universities in the ECAC. Students may compete in varsity or intramural matches. The first school in New York to Join NACE, SUNY Canton participates in HearthStone, League of Legends, Overwatch, Fortnite, FIFA, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Additional games and teams will be added in the near future.
SUNY Canton has also opened the first collegiate esports arena in the State University of New York System, becoming one of the largest dedicated gaming installations in the Northeast. According to SUNY Canton Online, “the 1,800 square-foot gaming room went online with 25 high-end gaming rigs.” With the addition of the facility, “SUNY Canton now has the largest installation of Alienware machines in New York state.”
In a Local-SYR.com report, My Dang, a Cicero-North Syracuse graduate and freshman at Canton, said the school's gaming arena and esports were the “main reason” for his college decision. "I think in the very near future that many colleges around the states will be able to see that esports, this whole eSports thing as an actual part of the college experience and I think it will eventually grow to become a behemoth," he said.
University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama
The University of Montevallo has announced the development of its first esports team. The school says that UM will join the Peach Belt Conference as an associate member for esports and will begin full participation in fall 2019, playing League of Legends. As the program grows, UM expects it to increase from an initial 15 players on the inaugural team to 30 players, with a full-time coach, and it expects to add other competitive game titles such as Dota 2, Fortnite, Hearthstone, Rocket League, Overwatch, and Smite.
In a school press release, UM CIO Craig Gray, who was instrumental in the development of the team, said, “we are beyond excited to be launching our first UM esports team within the Peach Belt Conference. Being the first structured college esports team in the state of Alabama, is something that is uniquely Montevallo.”
Initial tryouts for the team will be held on Saturday, March 9, 2019 on the UM campus. Many of the players on the inaugural team will receive partial scholarships.