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Message: Opinion: University Esports Key to Future Growth

It is time for a fundamental shift in Esports. 

The topic is something that has been championed on my radio show -- WWG Esports Today on SiriusXM -- and the need is obvious: real, amateur competition has to rise up.

In this age of professional sports teams injecting professional sports money into esports it is a rare situation where a few people, who are good at gaming, get together and try and make it as pros. It may still happen occasionally but as lucrative loads of money get injected into the scene, the path to esport success starts to model pro sports more and more.

Combining the money with the simply difficult-to-enter pro circuit, it makes the need for a well developed amateur underground that much more important. Simply put: the community as a whole needs to ensure a pipeline of up-and-coming athletes is established. More to the point, it needs to be one that produces players that can compete in formal leagues.

The path is not dissimilar to the current trends already in the industry.

Similar to traditional sports, university athletics has seen a major uptick in esports participation and incentivization, with at least 15 US universities now offering formal scholarships (in many cases full ride scholarships) for esports athletes.

On the Wednesday, Dec. 7 edition of WWG Esports Today, Daniel McHugh from Challengermode discussed the university esports landscape. His group is forming a League of Legends university circuit in five Nordic countries called the Nordic University League with a prizepool of 50,000 SEK ($5,465 USD).

Take a listen to his comments about the difference between EU and US university esports.


While there are key differences between the US and EU university systems, it still remains clear that universities are interested in incentivizing students to their campus through the programs. That climate change is important for all of esports, because just like in traditional sports, only a small percentage of people that want to succeed in pro esports as an athlete can, and an education received in parallel to the formal competitive setting is the most useful way to ensure that prospective athletes that don't make it in esports still have a potential future career or training to fall back on.

With the PAC 12 and other organizations here in the US university athletic scene starting to run and promote real competitions, it's only a matter of time before the NCAA -- or another esports specific nationwide governing body -- starts administering regulated university esports competitions.

These competitions are key to the amateur scene flourishing. A university is the perfect place for a prospective pro to test the waters of competition while continuing to ensure they have long term career potential if things don't work out.

I applaud McHugh's effort to expand esports to Nordic universities and hope to be sitting in the stands to support local university esports programs soon.

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