Can you think of anything better than getting paid to play your favorite video games? Good news: Colleges and universities around the world are recognizing collegiate eSports (electronic sports) as Varsity Sports and are launching programs with scholarship opportunities and competitive rosters.
eSports have become a massive and lucrative industry with millions of active followers and viewers. The professional eSports players and teams that compete globally have paid sponsorships and an avid fanbase. An article by Digital Trends announced, “eSports as an entire industry is projected to see 29.6 million viewers in 2022, with those numbers only set to rise in the coming years.”
Get Paid to Game
In addition to eSports exploding in the streaming/gaming world, it has also become a nationally recognized collegiate athletic! Colleges across the country and beyond have launched or are in the process of launching eSports programs with paid coaches and scholarship opportunities. Whereas many college eSports programs may have started as student-led organizations or clubs for extracurricular enjoyment, it has now taken hold and become widely funded by the participating schools’ athletic organizations.
According to ncsasports.org, there are 175 colleges that are members of the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE) and offer officially recognized varsity eSports programs. These schools offer partial or full-ride athletic scholarships.
To help us better understand how these collegiate eSports programs work, we talked to Caleb Colquitt, Faulkner University eSports Head Coach. He shared some helpful information on how Faulkner’s eSports team started, how the scholarships work, and how they compete.
Faulkner University’s eSports Program
Faulkner’s eSports team is still in its first year. Faulkner started planning for the new eSports facility in Fall 2021 and hired Caleb as the head coach in January 2022.
Caleb shared, “Our eSports team is a part of the athletic department. I answer directly to the athletic director, and Faulkner Sports Network covers our events. Our eSports players get scholarships, attend practices, and have academic eligibility standards just like our more traditional athletes.”
Currently, there are 32 students on the eSports roster. While there are some students that compete in more than one of the eSports Faulkner University offers, no two teams are composed of the same group of students. There are no students that compete in three or more because the time commitment would be far too demanding.
“Among the 170+ colleges and universities in the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE), we never know who we will play against, as they schedule our games based upon region and skill level. However, several other prominent universities also belong to NACE. Several in-state colleges like Auburn, Alabama, and Montevallo as well as some out-of-state schools such as Mississippi State and Florida belong to the NACE,” Caleb explained.
Currently, Faulkner offers five eSports events:
- Counter Strike: Global Offensive
- Rocket League
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- League of Legends
What to Know About eSports
Caleb shared, “eSports offers similar levels of development in the areas of strategy, teamwork, and problem-solving as many traditional sports. Just like in football or basketball, the less skilled team can defeat the more skilled team if the coordination is superior. Like traditional collegiate sports, most college eSports players will not go on to be pros. Therefore, the primary goal of a college eSports team ought to be enriching the character and cooperative skills of the men and women playing the sports. Pitting them against other skilled teams motivates them to push themselves and their teammates to achieve this goal.
How to Join Faulkner’s Program
Students will fill out an online application on the Faulkner eSports webpage. After that, the coach will contact them and set up a tryout. Finally, if the tryout goes well, they will discuss scholarship opportunities and enrollment.
Faulkner eSports athletes can expect to spend five to eight hours a week worth of time per game. They have two practices a week that last two to three hours a piece and one match a week that typically lasts around an hour.