Five Schools Leading the Way for Collegiate Esports
Written By: Mark Yasak and Chris Murphy
With each passing year, esports becomes a larger part of the college sports landscape. In 2018, there were only 70 full-time collegiate esports programs in the country. By 2020, that number had ballooned to 170, with more schools joining in every month.
Similarly, in the 2015-16 academic year, esports scholarships totaled $2.5 million nationally. By 2019, national scholarship dollars were up to $15 million, a 600% increase. As schools across the country focus on expanding their programs and enticing top recruits, a battle is playing out for who can offer, and deliver, the most to potential players.
Here are five schools that are leading the way for collegiate esports when it comes to competition, facilities, and educational opportunities for student-athletes.
- Maryville University- For fans of college esports, it should come as no surprise that Maryville University in Saint Louis is at the top of this list. After starting their program in 2015, Maryville made a name for themselves after going 40-0 and winning the 2016 League of Legends Championship. They won the same championship again in 2017 and 2020. The school has a state-of-the-art practice facility for their team that includes high-speed computers, high-end gaming headsets, and gaming chairs, creating an environment where the team can practice without any distractions. The school offers gaming scholarships up to $2,000 per year and hopes to continue to improve its offerings moving forward.
- The University of California at Irvine- UC Irvine was the first public school to create a varsity esports team. Their campus features one of the most extravagant esports facilities in the country, housing over 70 high-speed computers and a large arena to host games and tournaments. Also included in the facility is a “Console and Community Corner” that features several gaming consoles where players can compete with or against each other, making the facility appealing to more than just PC gamers. The school focuses primarily on League of Legends and Overwatch, offering scholarships of up to $5,610 per year for varsity players in each game.
- Miami University (Ohio)- Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is known for becoming the nation’s first Division 1 varsity esports program after creating their varsity program in 2015. In 2016, the school started offering varsity esports scholarships for student-athletes, competing primarily in Overwatch, Rocket League, and Hearthstone. The school developed an arena for the esports program on the first floor of the campus library, which features 16 gaming stations that each include a gaming computer that possesses a high-end graphics card and monitor. The university also offers summer esports camps where students can visit campus to compete in tournaments and train like varsity esports athletes.
- Boise State University- Boise State created its esports program in 2017. Originally focusing on Rocket League, Overwatch, and League of Legends, the program has since expanded to include Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. The tryout process for the BSU varsity team is extensive, taking up a full week at the start of the school year. Players on the team are required to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, well above the standard requirement for student-athletes. The Broncos’ home arena includes several impressive amenities such as a broadcasting section, a graphics and technical mixing area, and a two-tiered stage with a large spectating area.
- University of Utah- The University of Utah is new to the competitive gaming scene, starting its program in 2017. However, the school has some of the most expansive gaming offerings outside of the competitive scene, including a game development program that has been offered since 2007 and an undergraduate degree in gaming that was started in 2017. The university has a gaming facility that is stocked with 20 gaming computers and top-notch keyboards, headsets, and gaming mice. Utah brands itself as “Gamer U,” with more than 200 students trying out for 30 spots on the school’s varsity Overwatch, League of Legends, and Hearthstone teams.