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More Schools Kick Off Esports Programs, Including Purdue and Texas A&M

Esports at Wake Technical Community College

Esports at Wake Technical Community College

Purdue University Northwest, in Westville, IN, has announced it will be introducing co-educational esports in the fall, making it the first school in the state to offer competitive gaming at the varsity level. The institution will play as part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Games being considered include Fortnite, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League.

The university said it would develop esports arenas in student union buildings on two campuses. Each will feature 30 gaming stations. The facilities will be made available to all students for play during designated hours.

"I am excited to launch esports at PNW," noted Director of Athletics Rick Costello, in a statement. "The growth of esports is amazing, and this sport provides competitive, social engagement and educational opportunities for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Northwest Indiana community."

Texas A&M University-San Antonio has launched its esports program and hired its first coach. The school appointed Travis Yang as esports coach, recruited from Ashland University, where he served as an assistant esports coach.

The university is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) governing body, and the school's team will compete in the Collegiate Stargame and TESPA leagues.

"Esports is a natural fit with A&M-San Antonio's young intercollegiate and recreational sports program," said Darnell Smith, the university's director of intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports. "Travis brings an impressive expertise as a coach and deep understanding of the dynamics of this competitive sport as well as guiding student-athletes to be their best academically and competitively."

"When paired with education, esports can help reach individuals who would otherwise not have pursued higher learning or competitive ambitions," noted Yang. "My goal is to not only create a winning program, but one that focuses on each student holistically so that they may find success in whatever they pursue."

Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC, is adding competitive esports to its athletics roster. The school offers an associate degree in simulation and game development, where students prepare to work in the game development industry as artists, animators, programmers, designers and testers. Graduates have found employment at many of the companies in the region, including Epic Games, which produces the game Fortnite, among other offerings.

Among the games under consideration for play at the school are Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League. The college said it expected to start up with two or three teams. Players will compete in a computer lab on the college's Southern Wake Campus.

Currently, the school is recruiting for a director to lead the esports program. Players will only be allowed to participate as long as they're enrolled full time, maintain a minimum GPA and meet certain progress toward their degrees.

The program will be affiliated with the National Junior College Athletic Association, which provides two-year colleges with governance, competition and sanctioned national championships.

"Esports is a perfect fit for our college," said Wake Tech President, Scott Ralls. "In Wake County, esports and game development are not just fun and games; they are big business."

Athletic Director Brian Anweiler added that he expected esports to be a "very popular addition" to the college's athletic offerings. "We already have students competing in these popular games, and now they can play as Wake Tech Eagles to compete against students here in North Carolina and across the county."

Crowder College in Missouri has kicked off its competitive esports program, recently playing in its first competition against other two-year colleges. The college has given the program no "official budget," according to local reporting, so the team has turned to fans on campus, including the Technical Education Center, which donated gaming computers designed and built by networking students. Students are playing Overwatch, Rocket League, FIFA and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Games are being streamed on its channel.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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