University of Utah breaks new ground
“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the US over the last few years – especially on college campuses,” said A.J. Dimick, the director of operations for the new program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it.”
The varsity esports program, named Utah Esports, will be sponsored by the university’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) video game development program. EAE was rated the top video game design program in the nation three times in the last five years.
“EAE is proud to elevate competitive gaming at the U,” said EAE Director Robert Kessler. “We think it is a great opportunity for our students, the vibrant gaming community here on campus and Utah fans in general to come together and watch these players hone their skills and play competitively to represent our school.”
Prior to launching the new program, the university already had a student esports club – Crimson Gaming. The club was founded in 2014 and was integral to the development of the new program, says the school.
Utah Esports will start off with League of Legends competitions with plans to add other games soon. The school hopes that by taking the lead, other Power Five colleges will jump on board.
“It is important for big colleges and their administrations to jump in, and we hope to encourage that,” Dimick said.
Collegiate esports has growing potential
While still in its early stages compared to other athletic programs, collegiate esports is quickly picking up the pace. The number of student esports teams across the US is growing fast.
“We have more than 750 university League of Legends student clubs and more than 20 official varsity programs across North America,” said Riot Games College Esports Lead Michael Sherman. “The U continues to showcase why it’s among the nation’s most innovative and competitive as the first Power Five school to build its varsity League of Legends team.”
The popularity of esports has grown exponentially in the last couple years, so it’s not a big surprise to see esports making its way into college campuses. The competitive aspect of the industry has great potential for collegiate esports to form at US universities.
“The U has seen a rise in esports on campus, accompanied by distinct benefits from this community,” said University of Utah President David W. Pershing. “Students with very diverse backgrounds and interests engage with one another in this inclusive but competitive gaming environment.”
Smaller colleges led the way
While Utah is the first Power Five school to capitalize on the competitive gaming boom, esports has a history with smaller schools.
Robert Morris University started its esports program in 2013, and UC Irvine made its debut in the industry last year. With an expanding presence, it’s only a matter of time before others join.
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