It seems like yesterday when parents would tell their children that they won’t achieve anything playing video games. Now video gamers can make money either through streaming platforms or professionally playing tournaments that could be shown on ESPN along with football and basketball.

According to a Winthrop email sent on Feb.  7, the Winthrop University athletics department is in the process of creating an ESports [competitive gaming] varsity team for the fall 2019 semester to compete in video game tournaments. This decision was a part of the Winthrop plan laid out by President Mahony to improve the university with innovation and diversity. The athletics department is currently working on finding a coach and funding for the team with necessary equipment. While there are some people that may have doubts about having a team, there are benefits that are financial but some that could celebrate diversity in interest. commented that some of the benefits is how affordable building a team is on campus without spending millions of dollars on equipment. Combined with the Winthrop financial department and local sponsors, the university could repurpose a room with chairs and high functioning computers for members of the ESports team to train for upcoming competitions. Also, Esports training and equipment are cheaper than usual sport training equipment.

Another big advantage of ESports is how it has become a booming industry all over the world. Most countries like South Korea, China, Sweden and the United States have various teams for different games such as “DOTA 2,” “Counter-Strike” and “League of Legends.” Each different game has a different tournament style and has drawn in a big crowd of viewers in recent years. An example is the 2016 “League of Legends” Tournament, which the semi-finals and finals were held in Madison Square Garden and Staple Stadium respectively. The tournament drew in 47 million viewers compared to the 36 million viewers watching the  2016 AFC Championship.

A unique perspective about this decision is that that Winthrop University will be the third school in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I to have an ESports team, as most schools that have ESports don’t have it in their athletic programs. The two other schools in our division that have varsity teams include Marquette University and Wagner University. This would draw in a sense of uniqueness and pride for students, since our university would be the only school in the Carolinas to have an ESports team. Vice president of intercollegiate athletes Ken Halpin commented on the benefits of students interacting or participating in the upcoming ESports team and competitions.

“Primarily, the benefits are similar to all other extra-curricular and co-curricular programs on campus.  While not all students will engage with the program, there are many who will take interest and get involved whether it be through participation, internships, or spectatorship” said Halpin.

Overall, the inclusion of an ESports team would be an interesting varsity sport for the students at Winthrop University. Not only would it be financially possible but I would open up opportunity to bring in sponsors and new students to the university with new interests and competition for our athletes. Winthrop University strives to become a model of diversity in colleges all over the country, so a diversity of interests and sports would fit the bill for new and returning students alike.