With March Madness in full swing, it is fair to say that when it comes to sports in the United States, only professional leagues can match the popularity of College Sports. Basketball, American Football, Baseball, Gymnastics, and even Golf have become massively competitive College Sports across the United States.
Many colleges offer scholarships to talented athletes to get them to join their university and the intra-college rivalries that have sprung up over the years are as intense and as popular as any you will find in professional sports.
In recent years, we have also seen the rise of an extensive esports program in colleges across the United States and we are now seeing the first evidence of really intensive esports rivalries being developed between colleges across multiple esports disciplines and annual esports tournaments.
This has gone hand in hand with the development of an increasing number of specialist esports college degrees and courses, as well as a more clearly structured and regulated online college esports program.
Collegiate Esports Developing Beyond The United States
However, it is not just in the United States that colleges are tapping into esports to drive recruitment and popularity amongst students. There is plenty of evidence that colleges in the UK are following suit and having equal levels of success.
Many are part of the NUEL, one of the biggest college esports communities in the UK, which sees over 15,000 students taking part from 110 universities across the country. Alongside the NUEL, the NSE (National Student Esports) group and British Universities And Colleges Sport (BUCS) organisations have also been working hard to enhance collegiate esports around the UK.
There are now cases where esports events are now being integrated into annual varsity events including a number of large universities across the UK such as Worcester, York, Lancaster, and Gloucester.
Not only that, but UK education establishments are also taking a leaf out of the books of their American counterparts and also offering specialist esports scholarships to talented esports students, as well as specialist courses designed to help students make a career for themselves within the esports industry.
The rude health of the College Esports system in the UK was evident at the recent FIFA 21 Cup, which saw over 20% of the colleges in the UK enter at least one team into the tournament.
Betting On College Esports The Next Step?
We already know that many sports betting services offer bets on the top collegiate sporting events, like DraftKings and FanDuel, and it is not impossible to think that we could see the best esports betting sites offering odds on the top collegiate games here in the UK and of course in the United States.
Is it feasible that we could see esports betting in UK college tournaments and US tournaments?
It is certainly a possibility. As we have already explained, the collegiate esports program has exploded in the United States since 2009, and in the UK it has undergone similar rapid growth, despite the collegiate sports system not being as integrated or popularised as it is in the United States.
We also know that the top betting sites offer plenty of odds on collegiate football, basketball, baseball, and similar games in the US. The next logical step seems to be the inclusion of esports betting into this framework.
There are some gnarly issues to resolve. Betting sites in the UK would want assurances that the UK college esports tournament scene is being regulated properly and in the US, some states forbid their citizens from betting on college teams located in that state.
To me, this is the next step for college esports in both the UK and the United States. I do not think, given the rapid rate of expansion in the esports industries in both countries, that we are too far off seeing some of the top college esports teams becoming famous brand names, just as the Florida Gators or Clemson Tigers have become big names in collegiate football in the U.S.
I think once that happens, a natural move to allow collegiate esports betting, at least for the top tournaments initially, will follow. The UK may lag a little behind, but I think that given the rapid rate of growth and the widespread acceptance of betting in the country, that eventually you will see esports betting on college and university tournaments.
Of course, it should be remembered that esports at college is there to serve the future of students. It is not the sole goal of those attending these educational establishments, but the rivalries that colleges have between each other provide a fertile ground for the future of college esports and college esports betting.