ATHENS, Ohio — The 12 members of the Mid-American Conference (MAC), including Ohio University, will participate in the Esports Collegiate Conference, a competitive esports league, during the 2020-21 academic year.
The Bobcat Esports Club, a student organization that already competes at a high level, will become Ohio University’s team, according to Dr. Jeff Kuhn, coordinator of Ohio’s esports efforts.
The MAC announced the independent esports conference to facilitate and foster high-quality gaming competition among collegiate esports teams. Esports Collegiate will provide structure, scheduling and championship opportunities and will operate separately from the MAC.
Esports Collegiate will hold fall and spring seasons and crown a champion in each game title, with the champion earning a bid to a national postseason tournament.
“Ohio University students and alumni have already demonstrated great success in the world of esports,” said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis. “I welcome this action by the Mid-American Conference and believe Esports Collegiate will further enhance our students’ opportunities to succeed at the collegiate level and beyond. The opportunity to use egaming for scholarship, for example with the digital humanities, is also expanding dramatically.”
The news of Esports Collegiate follows a strong year for Ohio esports. The Bobcat Esports club, advisors and supporters were recognized at the Feb. 28 basketball game, and in April, students took on faculty and leadership in a virtual League of Legends match. The University is also exploring a dedicated space for esports on the ground floor of Scripps Hall, though construction plans are not yet complete.
“Video games and esports are a $120 billion industry, and this new space and Esports Collegiate give Ohio University a golden opportunity to prepare our students to be a part of it,” Kuhn said. “This industry is only going to grow, and Ohio University can be a leader in teaching the skills and traits needed for success in a dynamic, lucrative field.”
It’s a field that’s also growing quickly in high schools, Kuhn added. A number of schools have started their own esports clubs, whose members are looking for colleges where they have more opportunities to learn about and participate in esports.
“This MAC announcement is exciting because it reflects the efforts of students and staff across the region to bring games into focus in higher education,” Esports Student Advisor Ivy O’Shaughnessy said. “This league will facilitate students coming together for fun, academics, competition, and teamwork. Bobcat Esports is thrilled to compete on a national stage for Ohio.”
Other universities in the conference are: University of Akron, Ball State University, Bowling Green State University, University at Buffalo, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Kent State University, Miami University, Northern Illinois University, University of Toledo, and Western Michigan University.
“The creation of Esports Collegiate represents the foresight of our presidents to establish a stand-alone competitive framework for collegiate esports competitors and enthusiasts,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said.
Kuhn said Ohio will launch an esports certificate program in the 2020-21 academic year. The certificate is a collaboration between the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies in the Scripps College of Communication and the College of Business, with areas of focus in esports management, esports game production, and information telecommunication systems in esports.
Jim Sabin is the Media Relations Manager at Ohio University.