National Association Of Collegiate eSports Aims To Legitimize Esports In Higher Education

Written By Joss Wood on September 9, 2016 - Last Updated on January 22, 2018

[toc]Wednesday, September 7 marked the official launch of the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NAC esports) in the US.

  • The press release can be read here.
  • The new website with membership application form is here.

The new organization states:

“NAC eSports is the only association of college and university sponsored eSports programs that promotes the education and development of students through intercollegiate eSports participation and the institutional commitment to support those initiatives.

NAC eSports began with six founding members:

  • Columbia College (Mo.)
  • Indiana Institute of Technology
  • Maryville University (Mo.)
  • Midland University (Neb.)
  • Robert Morris University (Ill.)
  • University of Pikeville (Ky.)

It has since expanded to 20 higher education institutions and after its official nationwide launch expects many more to join.

“NAC eSports is a member driven association that focuses on developing eSports programs from the institutional level,” said Michael Brooks, NAC eSports administrator.

“We want to further expand the ecosystem by providing a home for existing varsity programs, while also acting as a resource for club teams wanting to move to varsity or for institutions that want to start a team.”

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Members expected to take part in NAC eSports events but membership is free

There is no cost to membership, but colleges must demonstrate a commitment to developing esports on campus and take part in the inaugural NAC eSports Invitational, which will take place in the spring of 2017.

NAC eSports plans a “a full regular and postseason competition in 2017-18.”

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which has administered athletics programs and championships since 1937, is providing “organizational support and structure” for NAC eSports.

Eric VanHoose, eSports head coach at the University of Pikeville commented:

“We are entering our second year as a varsity eSports program and are thrilled to be one of the founding members of NAC eSports. The association is providing a legitimate structure for varsity programs to grow and compete in the eSports ecosystem.”

College esports is becoming mainstream

In May 2016, the PAC-12 universities announced that they were launching an esports competition for the 2016/2017 academic year that would be broadcast on the conference’s TV channel.

As of June this year, six private colleges offered scholarships for esports athletes, and earlier in March, the University of California, Irvine announced that it would be the first public university to offer esports scholarships in the fall semester of 2016.

The university plans to develop an esports arena as well as offering 10 esports scholarships.

Riot Games’ League of Legends is one of the most popular campus esports, and is already established through its Campus Series. Riot even has a dedicated collegiate program manager, Michael Sherman.

Sherman responded to the University of California’s initiative by providing funding for a new PC café where esports players can enjoy a “premium gaming experience.”

The importance of university-supported esports is obvious when looking at the powerful role colleges play in traditional sports.

While development has so far been piecemeal, the NAC eSports launch has the potential to provide esports with similar levels of legitimacy—by some measures, esports is already recording similar levels of audience interest.

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Joss Wood

Joss Wood holds an English degree from the University of Birmingham and also earned a master’s degree in organizational development from the University of Manchester. Joss has a special focus on the international online gambling market, though he also writes extensively on US regulated markets, sports betting, and esports betting.

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