By Alec Moylan
December 15, 2018
Welcome to the age of collegiate esports! Even saying it sounds a little crazy, but in 5-10 years it might be the norm. As it stands, there are over 50 colleges and universities offering scholarships for esports, and over 475 who support it at the club level.
It doesn’t stop at scholarships. Colleges are spending large huge amounts of money building facilities and arenas to recruit top-tier talent. You know it’s getting serious when institutions start pulling out their checkbooks.
We aren’t dumb; we know colleges aren’t investing in esports because it’s a fun activity for the kids. There must be a master plan. So, how are colleges and universities benefiting from collegiate esports?
An institution doesn’t usually spend money unless it expects a return on investment. At the moment, collegiate esports aren’t very lucrative, but like any investment, colleges are betting on the future.
To start, esports are relatively inexpensive compared to most collegiate programs. Esports infrastructure is small compared to football, a game that requires a stadium, a massive staff, and large game-day expenses. Besides equipment and travel, esports programs are relatively inexpensive. A drawback is that esports don’t generate much revenue, but that’s about to change.
Schools know esports enthusiasts are very similar to college sports fans, which means schools already have a reliable revenue model to follow. Esports can be just as profitable as other spotlight programs. In fact, many colleges are already cashing in.
Earlier this year, the Big Ten Conference, which includes 14 Division-1 colleges, agreed to a two-year deal with Riot Games to sustain the BTN League of Legends league. The deal also keeps the Big Ten Network on as the primary broadcasters of the league’s events. TV deals, as well as merchandise and ticket sales, gives esports multiple streams of revenue at a fraction of the cost of most athletic programs.
Each day, as the video game industry grows, the prospect of collegiate esports get brighter. It’s only a matter of time until money is flowing in, especially for those laying the groundwork now.
Recruiting isn’t just for sports. Colleges are continually looking to recruit quality students with the potential for high academic achievement. To recruit successfully, colleges must find ways to stand out in the highly competitive collegiate landscape.
Esports attracts a unique kind of student and have long been connected with those proficient in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). STEM majors are in high demand in the workforce. Thus there is plenty of incentive for colleges to seek out these students. Just like football in the SEC, colleges will utilize esports as another innovative recruiting tool.
When you look at sports recruiting, it’s crazy to think about what collegiate esports might become. How long until it evolves into a recruiting arms race like other sports? How far will schools go to recruit the best talent? With no governing body like the NCAA, esports programs will have complete freedom.
We all love recognition and colleges are no different. It’s one of the major reasons why colleges put large amounts of money into extracurricular endeavors. However, with thousands of institutions in America —many with more resources at their disposal—recognition is hard to come by.
Esports is a competitive landscape fresh for the taking, a landscape where you don’t need to be Division-1 to gain notoriety. Esports gives colleges, big or small, the chance to spread their brand worldwide.
After becoming the 2017 League of Legends college champions, Maryville University, a St. Louis school with just over 2,000 undergraduates, received the opportunity compete internationally in China. Maryville’s dominance in collegiate esports put the university on the map and helps it continually attract top-tier talent.
Esports provide another avenue for colleges to get their name out there and it won’t be long until more recognize its potential.
It’s clear that momentum is building around collegiate esports as more and more schools are buying in. Esports are a sleeping giant and colleges with a head start will have a major advantage. Right now we’re witnessing the seeds being planted, but no one really knows how big collegiate esports could get.
At the very least, esports programs can change the way colleges recruit the upcoming generations of tech-savvy students. However, if you look at the trajectory of the esports industry and its growth, many see limitless potential.
With the proper infrastructure in place, collegiate esports could soon become a revenue behemoth like football or basketball. The train is leaving the station and colleges better get on board.
Tags: Collegiate Esports