Ball State University is creating an official varsity esports team, joining more than 300 colleges and universities to compete nationally in a fast-growing digital sport.
The University will join 12 members of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) during Fall semester for the 2020-21 season in the newly created independent Esports Collegiate Conference (ESC).
In 2019, Sports Link became one of the first collegiate sports production programs to produce an eSports tournament between then club players and Ball State student-athletes.
Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns said the new competitive program provides students with a new source for school spirit and pride in their own campus community. The move to becoming a varsity-level team is a natural one since the University has Cardinal Esports, an active club team with about 500 participants.
“We are excited to expand Ball State’s esports presence and to join our fellow Mid-American Conference institutions in this new competitive arena of Esports Collegiate,” President Mearns said. “Our expansion into this dynamic domain of esports is another way in which our University is providing our students innovative opportunities to learn and to make connections with their peers and within the community. This initiative will elevate the academic experiences that we offer across multiple disciplines.”
The new varsity-level team also will enhance academic offerings by bringing esports experiences into curricula across multiple disciplines, including digital sports production, business, computer sciences, animation, and sport administration, said Paaige Turner, dean of Ball State’s College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM).
She said the new venture will not only provide students with a sports team that mirrors their interests, but it also will support those who are interested in employment opportunities in the fast-growing field.
“A recent report found that esports jobs grew 184.74% during the first half of 2019 compared to the first half of 2018,” said Turner, who also noted that the esports industry is expected to expand from $120 billion in 2019 to about $125 billion this year. “This is a sport that is spreading across the globe. Our team will make Ball State even more attractive to high achieving students around the nation.”
She said the varsity team will be housed within CCIM and a search for a coach will be underway soon.
The new team should be popular among students, said Alex Kartman, a director of digital sports production and telecommunications lecturer in CCIM. He has been spearheading the University’s efforts to create a varsity-level program.
“Varsity esports competition is a new way we will provide students distinctive opportunities to learn and make connections with their peers and the community,” Kartman said. “Through our esports opportunities, students will find their passion and purpose at Ball State.”
ESC will feature Fall and Spring seasons, competing in game titles such as Overwatch and League of Legends. An Esports Collegiate Champion will be crowned in each game title, with the champion earning an automatic bid to the national postseason tournament.
Spring season competition will be in Overwatch and League of Legends. Titles being considered for the Fall are Rocket League, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros., Madden NFL, and FIFA.