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Esports becomes the next big collegiate sport

Zac Ahlers, Copy Editor

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As of June 2014, colleges have started the introduction of collegiate esports teams with Robert Morris University in Chicago being the first. The scene has evolved from just one game to multiple different games including League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Rocket League and so many more. This was just the start to a phenomenon that has taken collegiate sports by storm.

With the rise of esports coming to the collegiate level it allows students that maybe aren’t athletically inclined but are extremely good at video games to be recognized for that skill. “I think it gives gamers a good way to get to the next level while still going to school,” said senior Callum Revell. Unlike just going to the pro scene these players will still be going to college and getting a degree so that way even if their gaming career ends in college they still have somewhere to go.

Even St. Ambrose University is offering scholarships to play for their esports team. “The program will be considered a varsity sport and a part of our school’s athletic program,” said St. Ambrose esports coach Joshua Sides. Currently St. Ambrose is specifically focusing on League of Legends and Overwatch for the upcoming year. This gives the opportunity for students in the Quad Cities to play esports at the collegiate level.

Astonishingly, more people watch esports competitions over the course of the year that the NBA Finals, World Series or Stanley Cup Finals. In 2014, 205 million people watched esports competitions whether that was online, through Twitch or in person. This just shows how massive esports is around the world.

The collegiate esports scene is even being recognized by the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl Mike Nealy. On Feb. 17, 2018 the Fiesta Bowl hosted the Overwatch Collegiate Championship at Arizona State University, selling out the Sun Devil Fitness Complex. “My perception was this out-of-shape kid that’s eating Cheetos and playing a game, and can’t talk socially, and is a basket case athletically,” Nealy said. “No, these are normal kids. …This is just a different avenue. They’re smart, intelligent and very capable individuals that have found a niche and are doing something that they enjoy doing.”

The effect that collegiate esports is going to have on the world is going to be crazy. More than 60 colleges and universities have esports programs that are recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Esports. This is just the beginning of these collegiate sports and it will be exciting to see where this will go.

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Esports becomes the next big collegiate sport