Ashland University Launching Varsity E-Sports Team

  • 2/12/2018 12:42:47 PM
  • Sartaj Singh
  • Local News

ASHLAND, OH - The growing popularity of E-Sports has reached Ashland. 

Starting in the Fall 2018 semester, Ashland University will be kicking off its E-Sports program. Scholarships of up to $4,000 will be offered for students recruited into the program. 

E-Sports gathers teams of players from different backgrounds to compete with each other in skill-based video game competitions. The popularity of the sport has grown year-by-year, attracting many to watch top quality virtual matches.

The concept of colleges forming collegiate E-Sports teams started 5 years ago. Now, colleges have started varsity programs that now offer scholarships due to the growing popularity. Robert Morris University was one of the first schools to offer scholarships for their E-Sports program.

Joshua Buchanan, the E-Sports Head Coach at Ashland University, saw an opportunity to have Ashland University jump on a growing industry. 

"I spoke with the Athletic Director, he thought it was an excellent opportunity to expand e-sports and also bring a little bit of professionalism to e-sports that would come through being a part of the athletic department," Joshua said. 

A facility with more than 20 high-end gaming PCs will be built in the basement of the AU library. Construction on the project will begin in Summer of 2018 and will be ready for when the program launches in Fall of 2018. 

The team formed at Ashland University will be primarily playing the most popular e-sports games, such as Overwatch, Starcraft II, League of Legends, DOTA, and more. 

Once the program launches in Fall of 2018, the first step according to Joshua is to meet the players and understand what their strengths and weaknesses are and how the program can help them grow. The program will also focus on teaching players how they can balance their professional career and academic career. 

After that, the team will start working on teamwork and strategies and prepare for gaming tournaments. The earliest gaming tournaments start late August. 

Many players currently plan to immediately attempt the jump to professional e-sports. Joshua believes with the program at Ashland University, players will come to learn and hone their craft before jumping into the professional world, in addition to getting a college degree. 

"You see a lot of younger kids coming out of high school, and maybe they will choose to become professionals instead of attending college. I think this will bring it to the same level as traditional sports, where the college programs prepare students for their professional careers." Joshua said. 

The common criticism that is often brought up about e-sports is that it should not be classified as a sport since players play virtually and the amount of preparation does not match what players in football, basketball, baseball, and others have to go through to prepare for a single game. Joshua is aware of these criticisms and knows that the e-sports program can change opinions.  

"For me, it doesn't really matter whether you think e-sports is sports or not," Joshua said. "Its something that highly competitive and has a huge skill cap... people are constantly getting better. No one has mastered any game yet.... we are certainly happy to have it as part of the athletic program."

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