eSports is much more than just a spectator sport, it’s an industry that is growing at a rapid pace and has the potential to become one of the biggest sports in the world.
It is no surprise, then, that there are now college varsity eSports programs across the country.
With the rise of collegiate eSports, universities have had to adapt their educational structure to meet the needs of this new generation of students.
Universities all over the United States have begun offering classes on the subject, with many schools creating these programs to help develop future professionals in the field.
With this in mind, we are going to be taking a look at some of the best college varsity eSports programs from across the United States. Let’s get started.
1. Illinois Wesleyan University — Bloomington, Illinois
Illinois Wesleyan University started offering eSports as a varsity team in 2018, with the university offering a dedicated eSports facility for teams to use.
This facility includes a broadcasting studio, over 50 computers, a communal space, and top-of-the-line technological equipment.
The program offers scholarships to talented players for the likes of popular games in the eSports sphere such as League of Legends and Overwatch, as well as newer titles such as Fortnite.
2. University Of California, Irvine — Irvine, California
The University of California, Irvine was the first major school to offer a varsity eSports program in 2016. The program offers scholarships for its players as well as a competitive community for gamers in college.
UCI set up the program as an extension of the computer game science major that they already offered.
This extension has led to a wealth of eSports-related events, such as an annual conference co-hosted by the university that brings together hundreds of people interested in the field.
3. University Of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, California
Another California-based university, Berkeley offers a strong eSports program with a state-of-the-art eSports community center.
The university has an excellent reputation when it comes to eSports, having won multiple championships in games such as Starcraft II and Overwatch since it was created in 2009.
As well as this, UC Berkley also has a holistic model surrounding eSports focusing on wellbeing and community and a Women in Gaming initiative that aims to increase female representation within the industry.
4. Georgia State University — Atlanta, Georgia
One of the newer universities to get in on eSports, Georgia State University launched its own varsity eSports program in 2017.
The university has been able to obtain membership to both the Georgia eSports League and the National Association of Collegiate eSports.
Scholarships are available too, so long as the students involved are able to maintain their academic integrity and abide by university conduct codes.
Georgia State also encourages those studying other fields- such as broadcasting- to market their eSports tournaments
5. University Of Utah — Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah university became one of the largest schools to incorporate eSports upon the creation of the program in 2017.
The university has always had a profound interest and history when it comes to gaming, as they have offered a video game development degree since 2007.
Their eSports program has been met with positivity, obtaining various sponsorships with big name brands such as Rockstar Energy Drink and Mountain Dew.
6. Miami University — Oxford, Ohio
Another of the first universities to incorporate an eSports program, Miami University is now home to some of the most successful collegiate teams in America.
Their Overwatch eSports team won the National Association of Collegiate eSports in 2017 whilst in 2019, they won several state-wide eSports competitions in both League of Legends and Overwatch.
7. Maryville University — St. Louis, Missouri
This private school founded its eSports program in 2015, making them one of the newest members of the list.
However, the school has made a great impact thus far, winning multiple tournaments- including the League of Legends National Championships in 2016, 2017, and 2019 – and the course being named eSports Collegiate Program of the Year in 2021.
Former players for the universities team have gone on to become professional eSports players and coaches.
8. Boise State University — Boise, Idaho
Established in 2017, this program is incredibly popular, with both full and part-time students being enrolled in undergraduate and graduate versions of the course.
The course is popular enough that try-outs have to be passed in order to gain entry to the team, which will then offer merchandise, professional coaching, and access to Boise’s training center.
The team members can compete in matches in the National Association of Collegiate eSport and can also apply for financial aid and special eSports scholarships.
9. University of Texas at Dallas — Dallas, Texas
Texas is another newcomer of sorts to the eSports scene, but the university is fast becoming one of the major competitors in the United States.
They incorporated their eSports program in 2018, offering courses in Overwatch, Rocket League, and Super Smash Brothers.
The school has had a wide range of success since the inception of the eSports program, with the team taking home their second Super Smash Brothers Ultimate national title in 2021.
They ended the 2020/2021 school year with their Overwatch team ranking as one of the top eight eSports teams in the United States.
10. University of Akron — Akron, Ohio
Establishing its eSports team in 2018, the University of Akron is a relatively new member of the list.
But, they are already proving themselves to be one of the best programs, with three state-of-the-art gaming facilities that can be used for both student-athlete games and hobbyists at the university.
The university also holds an eSports summer camp for kids, where the team members can be coaches.
The world of college eSports is still quite young, with many schools only just beginning to establish their own eSports teams within the last five years or so.
As more colleges continue to develop their eSports programs, we will see the number of schools rise even further.
With the right amount of support from the administration and the community, these programs can prove to be invaluable resources for both the student-athletes and the university itself.
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