NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Collegiate Esports isn’t just a casual club on campus anymore.
The National Association of Collegiate Esports, better known as NACE, helps universities across the country create and manage Esports teams.
“You could probably look at us like an NCAA,” said Ashley Jones, NACE Director, Membership Sales, and Services.
They set eligibility requirements, help with recruiting events and hold championships. The game itself is very similar to NCAA sports.
“It’s like the same thing they do in basketball. Students are still getting that teamwork, leadership communication, and critical thinking. They’re all still learning those same fundamentals as other student-athletes do, they’re just sitting down,” said Jones.
Collegiate Esports is still very young. The first school that created a varsity program was Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania in 2014.
Since then, NACE now has over 700 teams across the country and over 200 varsity programs. One of those teams is right up the road at Western Kentucky University.
“We were one of the first DI schools to actually get involved in a varsity program,” said WKU Esports faculty advisor Dr. Patricia Todd. “We started from a room in a closet.”
Now, they boast four teams consisting of 40 students and 10 more staff. All of them receiving Esports scholarships.
Just like a basketball or football player, you can earn a scholarship to play Esports. They’re trying to squash the narrative about video gamers.
“They say kids that play video games are in a basement chugging Mountain Dew and eating Doritos until like 3 a.m. in the morning,” joked Jones.
“They’re these nerdy not-so-fit guys that are just sitting around drinking energy drinks and eating snacks,” added WKU grad assistant Jessica Manrow.
These teams are similar to any sports team on campus.
“There are a lot of programs where you stay within a certain amount of practice hours each week, you also have to go to study hall, and you have to complete a certain amount of physical activity every single week,” said Jones. “That helps kind of steer away from those misconceptions.”
Keep an open mind and you’ll see the possibilities.
“The students who are involved in these programs, 80 percent of them are not participating in anything else on campus. They’re not a part of any student organizations or clubs, anything like that, so the ability to bring on these Esports programs, it’s giving these universities essentially an opportunity to tap into a whole new student population they may not have been able to before,” said Jones.
It’s a new possibility for the university, but also for the students.
“This is the next thing. This is exciting, this is new, and they can get good scholarships and experience in these programs,” said Manrow.
With the gaming world continuing to grow, students who participate in varsity Esports can now go on to have a career in a similar field .
Beyond just playing the game, there’s opportunities in marketing, computer science, video production, and more.