By Alina Hunter-Grah, Chattanooga, Tenn.– As technology advances, common culture evolves with it as a world of different specialties and interests emerge. Athletics are no exception to this as colleges begin to offer scholarships to students who want to be involved with competitive video gaming now being called “E-Sports.”
The idea of offering scholarships to video gamers began in 2014 at Robert Morris University. The university began with just offering scholarships to those who wanted to play League of Legends, an online, real-time battle arena, but now offers positions for those who are interested in DOTA 2, Hearthstone, and Counter-Strike. Several schools are now climbing on board with this quickly rising trend as well.
However, even with the increase in interest, E-Sports cannot become varsity sports without approval and funding from NCAA, or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which has not mentioned anything about the new sport to any institution.
If the NCAA did recognize the sport, other issues could arise within the colleges themselves that could prevent such sports from being implemented in athletic programs. These issues could include whether funding would be given from outside sponsors, if there would be enough student interest and gender equity, the rule developed in Title IX which requires universities to offer women the same opportunity to play sports as men.
University faculty are pessimistic about E-Sports becoming a NCAA recognized sport, but are sure that other opportunities to play in college will arise.
“Even though it’s a game, you do have to think and you do have to use certain senses to be able to play the game,” said Kenneth Jones, assistant athletic director of compliance. “But I would be surprised if NCAA would consider this as a sport, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more institutions doing it as a club sport.”
The University is not opposed to opening E-Sports up as a varsity sport should it be recognized by NCAA.
“If the NCAA considers it a varsity sport and allows institutions to start implementing it, I think we could take consideration of it,” said Jones.
Interest in beginning a club sport at UTC focusing on E-sports, specifically League of Legends, occurred in 2014, but the group has been inactive for a year. However, the Coordinator of Intramural Programs, Eddrick Brooks, is in favor of restarting one of these clubs.
“I don’t see why we can’t offer it or why it can’t be a club right now,” said Brooks. “What it takes is for students to really be involved in the idea and let me know what they want from the program and where they intend for it to go. But I’m definitely open to it.”
Students at UTC seem to behind opening up these opportunities to students as well.
“I think that scholarships should be offered based on things along the lines of E-Sports,” said Benjamin Brooks, a sophomore from Morristown, Tenn. and League of Legends player. “While it doesn’t necessarily offer the same sort of full body involvement that traditional sports do, it still does encompass a lot of mental prowess and fine motor skills.”