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IOC Who? Booming at the Collegiate Level, eSports Isn’t Waiting for Anyone’s Approval

20 Feb, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

IOC who? Despite what was intended as a crushing setdown from that venerable group, claiming that any talk of inclusion of gaming in the Olympics is “premature,” eSports is forging ahead, continuing not merely its rapid ascent into the public consciousness but its growth as a business phenom as well.

The latest proof is an announcement from the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) that Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will host its National Convention this July. The convention will be held on location with NACE member institution Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (HU). The three-day event will bring in not just coaches and program directors but vendors and even students.

And don’t think for a minute there wasn’t hot competition for hosting privileges.

“The selection of Harrisburg as our host for the 2019 NACE National Convention came after a lengthy request-for-proposal process. Our selection committee received over a hundred bids from cities across the country to be the host for the second ever national meeting of varsity eSports programs,” said NACE Executive Director Michael Brooks. “The facilities available to us in Harrisburg and at Harrisburg University, as well as the support from the city and state, marked Harrisburg as a clear frontrunner early in the selection process.”

“Harrisburg University has an exceptional eSports program and state-of-the-art facilities that make it an ideal location to host the NACE National Convention,” said NACE Marketing Manager Victoria Horsley. “The university is considered a trailblazer in eSports and has hosted large-scale gaming events so it will be a great experience for NACE attendees.”

The town's mayor has gone on record as being excited about the event. Additionally, Harrisburg is planning to add a dedicated eSports arena, which, Horsley says, is expected to be 30 percent larger than the current venue in Arlington, Texas.

Harrisburg University has been one of the schools that embraced eSports early on; the institution also hosted the Harrisburg University eSports Festival last September, which included 32 college teams competing live for a $50,000 prize pool and marked the largest in-person gathering of varsity eSports programs.

The fact that the eSports Festival was such a resounding success flies is a stark contrast to the situation of several other niche sports which are struggling to find hosts for events, as well as sponsorship funding.

The program of topics for the convention gives witness to the fact that eSports is facing the issues common to even top-division sports at the national level. Sessions will focus on some of the following topics:

  • Coaching in eSports
  • Growing current programs
  • Athlete health and wellness
  • eSsports facilities
  • Recruitment

In addition, there are regulatory issues to consider in this emerging discipline and the convention will address these as well: current legislative topics including national intent to participate letters, board and council elections, transfer rules and future championships. The conference also has networking events to connect schools and eSports industry leaders.

NACE currently counts 127 institutions as members, ranging from two-year junior colleges to some of the largest four-year state universities in North America. As of January 1, 2019 nearly $16 million in eSports scholarships are available to students pursing associate and bachelor’s degrees.

And, notes Horsley, NACE and its membership only continuing to grow as schools continue to call, asking about starting up programs or participating in competitions.

“I’ve been averaging nine to 10 inquiries a day,” she notes. “Today has been crazy – I’m on my sixth call and it’s only noon.”

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