Ball State to create official varsity esports team

<p>Jullian Thomas sits in front of a computer. Thomas is wearing his headset and Cardinal Esports jersey. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN</strong></p>

Jullian Thomas sits in front of a computer. Thomas is wearing his headset and Cardinal Esports jersey. Jacob Musselman, DN

Ball State is creating a varsity esports team, joining more than 300 colleges and universities to compete nationally in the digital sport, according to a press release from the university.

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), the press release states.

MAC leadership announced the new venture today, it states, adding ESC is an independent entity and will operate separately from the MAC.

ESC will provide structure, scheduling and championship opportunities for its membership, an ESC press release states.

ESC will feature fall and spring seasons. Titles being considered for the fall include games like Rocket League, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros., Madden NFL and FIFA. The spring season competition will be in Overwatch and League of Legends, the press release states.

An ESC Champion will be crowned in each game title, with the champion earning an automatic bid to the national postseason tournament, it states.

“The creation of Esports Collegiate represents the foresight of our presidents to establish a stand-alone competitive framework for collegiate esports competitors and enthusiasts,” said Jon Steinbrecher, MAC commissioner, in the ESC press release. “I look forward to this organization maturing and growing, facilitating excellent competitive opportunities, fostering teamwork, and providing even more reasons to attend an Esports Collegiate member institution.” 

Greg Crawford, president of Miami University, will serve as the president of the ESC board of directors, the press release states.

“I, along with my presidential colleagues are thrilled by the creation of the Esports Collegiate Conference,” Crawford said. “Esports has a growing presence on all of our campuses. Esports Collegiate will provide a framework for competition among peers, and afford another opportunity for student engagement.” 

A seven-member competition committee has been established to oversee scheduling, game title selection and recommendations, championship format and any other infrastructure issues that may arise.

ESC's website states competitions will be played online at individual campus sites and teams will not need to travel for regular season competition.



President Geoffrey Mearns said in the Ball State press release the program provides students with a new source for school spirit and pride in their own campus community.

Currently, the university has Cardinal Esports, an active club team with about 500 participants, the press release states.

“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," Mearns said. "This initiative will elevate the academic experiences that we offer across multiple disciplines.”

Paaige Turner, dean of Ball State's College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM), said in the press release the new varsity-level team will enhance academic offerings by bringing esports experiences into curricula across multiple disciplines — including digital sports production, business, computer sciences, animation, and sport administration.

Turner said the new venture will provide students with a sports team that mirrors their interests and support those who are interested in employment opportunities in the fast-growing field.

“This is a sport that is spreading across the globe," she said, acknowledging the financial and job growth in the esports industry. "Our team will make Ball State even more attractive to high achieving students around the nation.”

The varsity team, Turner said, will be housed within CCIM and a search for a coach will be underway soon.

Alex Kartman, lecturer of telecommunications and director of digital sports production at Ball State, has been spearheading Ball State's efforts to create a varsity-level program, the press release states.

“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.”

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