Do Esports deserve a place in college athletics?

By Lily O’Connor:

Assumption College takes a great pride in their athletics. There are 24 varsity teams, many of which have won the NE-10 Championships, constantly break records and bring a lot of Hound Pride to the campus and Assumption College community. When the news broke that the school would be introducing “Blue and White Sports,” most were intrigued. The official Assumption College Athletics website states that “Assumption’s Blue & White Sports initiative was created in 2018 to oversee the school’s athletics programs that are not participating in the NCAA and aren’t part of The College’s current club sports model. These new programs will compete at the highest national club level for their respective sport.” The Blue and White Sports coming in fall of 2019 are Women’s Ice Hockey, Men’s Swimming and Diving and Esports. 

Most of the current students seem satisfied with this new structure, but the one Blue and White Sport generating the most conversation is Esports. For those unfamiliar, Esports are competitive video games. And, in fall of 2019 “esports will be pursuing League of Legends, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” states the official Assumption College Athletics website. They are already interested in growing the program, hoping to increase the amount of games offered in 2020. 

You can even get recruited, or recruit yourself for Esports, and there are partial athletics scholarships offered, so it is being treated much like the current NCAA sports at Assumption. 

But what do current students think about adding Esports to Athletics? 

Many members of the Assumption College Women’s Rowing team have stated it is hard for them to think of Esports as synonymous with Athletics. One member was saying it is especially hard to consider them part of Athletics because “it doesn’t encourage an active lifestyle the way Athletics does,” going on to say “there are dozens of extremely talented and committed traditional athletes who aren’t on scholarship, so I can’t see justifying scholarship for Esports athletes” 

Another member of the Women’s Rowing team states, “as an athlete at Assumption, and someone who’s basically always been an athlete, it’s pretty hard to look at Esports as being brought to the same level as other NCAA sports, including the scholarships and recruiting that would take place. I wouldn’t deny that being able to play video games is a skill just as being able to throw or catch a ball is, they all can be considered skills, but I think I would put esports more in the category of something like an academic decathlon. I am sure it requires a great amount of focus and practice, but so does doing complicated math equations. Both of those are not under the category of the physical exertion that current NCAA sports require, and therefore, it would honestly be frustrating to see money that the school could be using on other sports that have been lacking proper funding and haven’t gotten their own facilities updated in quite some time.” 

Non-athletes have mixed opinions about the topic, with a female sophomore student stating that she didn’t think it was a great idea. She did not think that this worth putting money toward, especially considering we would need an Esports Arena. She would have rather seen money going toward an Esports Arena redirected to updating a different part of the campus. A sophomore male agreed about this, saying he thinks “it is a good way to increase interest in the school, but I don’t think it is a good use of the school’s money. I believe that there are more important things that money could be put towards.” 

Though, another male sophomore student completely disagrees with these opinions. He says “I believe that it is a good opportunity due to the increasing interest in esports. Not many schools have this available so it will draw in more students. And, it’s not that expensive if a sport to fund.”  

This student is not wrong, Esports are on the rise. An artice from Business Insider projects that by 2020 competitive video gaming will be a $1.5 billion industry. It is on the rise. Even ESPN has written about the rise of Esports, comparing the spectacle to that of traditional sports in stadiums with cheering fans. “Top eSports tourneys now draw audiences that rival the biggest traditional sporting events; popular midweek live streams routinely attract more than 100,000 online viewers,” the article states. 

The data and differing opinions on the topic leave students curious about the new introduction of Esports. Whether in support, displeased, or not quite certain how they feel, this is getting integrated in the coming fall at Assumption College. At this point, the only option is to wait it out and see what it does for the school.

The climate of the school will be changing drastically in the next year, with the introduction of a Nursing program, and potential of a University structure, so maybe Esports will fit in more with the new makeup of the school.

Be sure to tweet me your opinions on this topic @LBO_AC301

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