St. Lawrence University adding E-sports as competitive varsity program
CANTON -- St. Lawrence University’s Department of Athletics and Recreation will add e-sports as a competitive varsity program. E-sports, which is a form of sport competition using video games, is the 35th current varsity sport offered at SLU.
“With an audience of nearly 500 million viewers worldwide, esports has seen significant growth in recent years, and St. Lawrence has seen increased interest from current and prospective students,” the school’s announcement said.This led to piloting two student teams during the spring of 2020 that participated in scrimmages against established varsity programs from across the country. The team also participated in two summer collegiate showcase tournaments in preparation for fall competition.
“The opportunities to develop teamwork and leadership skills while participating in esports are very similar to other athletic teams,” said Director of Athletics and Recreation Bob Durocher. “I am proud that the University was able to respond quickly to the changing interests of our students by adding this popular sport to the Saints Athletics offerings.”
In what will be the team’s inaugural varsity year, two full competitive teams in the Overwatch (fall 2020) and League of Legends (spring 2021) titles have already been recruited and trained. Competitions will be streamed on the university’s Twitch channel, a popular online service used to watch and stream digital video broadcasts.
“Esports represents a significant opportunity to enhance St. Lawrence’s ability to recruit and retain the kind of smart, innovative students we want representing and competing for St. Lawrence,” said Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Florence Hines. “I have been very impressed with the talent, passion, and dedication of our student players and the hard work they and others have put in to developing an esports program that provides yet another dimension to the University’s already robust co-curricular offerings.”
The university has joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) esports. NACE formed in 2016 and serves as the largest governing body of intercollegiate esports in the country. NACE accounts for more than 90 percent of intercollegiate programs in the country with 170-member institutions across the United States, SLU said.
St. Lawrence administrators Kyle Jicha and Eric Shinnick, who have been advising the pilot program, will serve as coaches during the inaugural season.
St. Lawrence’s team will compete in the Gaming Lab in Bewkes Hall, which was developed last year and provides students with a space to come together and participate in e-tournaments where they compete against other teams from across the country. The Gaming Lab is dedicated to both the research and recreation of gaming related competition and content creation while providing a forum for students to share their interest in esports as well as access to popular games such as League of Legends, Hearthstone, Fortnite, Overwatch, and several other titles, the SLU release said.
There is an esports page on their website at https://saintsathletics.com/sports/esports