Marquette University announced that in Fall 2019, an E-sports team will be the first in the nation run by a major conference Division I athletics program.
E-sports are competitive, organized video gaming. Players are from different leagues or teams worldwide and face off in games that are popular with at-home gamers (i.e. Fortnight, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Madden NFL, etc.). Tournaments can attract viewing crowds that match traditional arena sporting events. E-sports, however, still mirror the traditional athletics team model with many of the same benefits for players such as leadership, teamwork, and communication.
In March 2019, the NCAA held the Peach Belt Conference championship, a Division II competition where players play in a crowd that resembles a sold-out NBA-sized arena, battling other players for the title of League of Legends world champion. The competitions for the League of Legends video game alone have assembled a massive worldwide audience. In 2017, 57.6 million unique online viewers watched the championship match. Viewers are usually composed of teenagers and college students. This viewership rivals the final games of the World Series, NBA Finals, and NHL finals combined; To date, only the Super Bowl has drawn more viewers.
When Marquette’s program launches in Fall 2019, the team will likely be run similar to any varsity sport tryout. There will be tryouts, a coach will be hired, regular practices will be held, and the team will represent Marquette at E-sports tournaments. The new varsity team will be managed by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics in close collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs, the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of Admissions.
As we watch E-sports grow and rival with other revenue-generating sports such as Men’s Basketball March Madness and football’s National Championship, will can only imagine how it will thrive over time!