CNCC seeks forming competitive e-sports team as activity connects with students
Colorado Northwestern Community College announced that it is pursuing a competitive electronic sports program under the athletic department with an aim to begin competing by fall 2020.
“I got the greenlight to go for it,” said CNCC Athletic Director Candra Robie. “President Ron Granger and I talked about it a few weeks back, and he really wants to do it.”
CNCC expects the program to bolster enrollment and help with student retention rates.
Discussions of a varsity level e-sports program at CNCC began in the early spring of 2019 after two other regional colleges announced their e-sports programs. Snow College and Utah State University Eastern have both just embarked on their first year of e-sports programming that began in the fall 2019 semester.
E-sports is one of the fastest growing sports industries in the world, and it is estimated to cross the billion-dollar a year threshold by the end of 2019. According to a Forbes report by Matt Perez, the industry saw a 38% increase in revenues from 2017 to 2018. Video game developers and publishers such as Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, and Riot Games are leading the competitive scene for the e-sports industry with games such as “Overwatch,” “Fortnite,” and “League of Legends” being among the most popular e-sports games streamed on ESPN, Twitch, and YouTube.
“It’s growing, it’s popular, and it’s definitely a thing,” Robie said.
If CNCC is to form an e-sports team, they will fall under National Association of Collegiate E-sports, which is a separate governing body from other CNCC sports programs that are governed by National Junior College Athletic Association. This means that e-sports athletes will have to follow separate governing policies and procedures than other CNCC sports programs.
NACE is a relatively new association that formed in 2016, based out of Kansas City, Missouri. At the time NACE was conceived, there were only seven North American colleges and universities that had varsity level e-sports programs. In 2019, there are now over 130 North American institutions with varsity level e-sports programming. Currently, over 94% of all e-sports programs in the United States are members of NACE.
Robie noted that an e-sports program at CNCC is still in its preliminary phases.
“This is so new; we still have to write the proposal, get a budget, and declare our intent to compete,” she said.
The national average start-up cost for a collegiate e-sports program is $45,000. The costs associated with start-up include the purchasing of hardware and equipment, as well as NACE membership fees, and the hiring of coaches. CNCC must also determine a designated space for the e-sports program. In comparison to other sports programs, an e-sports program is not expected to require a significant travel budget due to the majority of competitions being held online with athletes remaining on their respective campuses.
E-sports is not entirely new to CNCC. CNCC Gateway Coordinator Tyler Bridges has been advising an e-sports club at CNCC that plays “League of Legends” since fall 2017, and the club has seen consistent interest and participation from students and faculty.
“It all started as clubs at colleges, and now there are governing bodies for it,” said Robie.
Bridges said he thought of an e-sports club as a fun project to bring people together to play a game that he really enjoys playing. He started by talking to students about games, and once he noticed there was enough interest, he helped guide students on their way to becoming an official CNCC club.
“It just continued to grow and spread through word-of-mouth, fliers, and booths at orientation,” Bridges said.
CNCC also offered a community education course on how to play “League of Legends” competitively over the summer with a curriculum emphasizing game theory, mechanics, map control, player roles, teamwork, and communication.
With an e-sports program at CNCC only a year out, Bridges offers his vision of what he would like the program to be for students.
“I would really like to see it be an opportunity that allows for people to play competitively through an avenue that is not necessarily conventional by social norms, while still really working on communication, team building, and interpersonal relationships,” he said.