JONESBORO – eSports are coming to Arkansas State University for the fall 2019 semester, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse announced this week.
“Student interest in competitive gaming is growing nationwide, and naturally, these Red Wolves want to represent Arkansas State,” Damphousse said.
The A-State eSports team will launch as a competitive club sport during its formation period this fall, similar to Arkansas State’s nationally-ranked and national title holding rugby and softball club teams.
“We involved current A-State students in our early planning discussions to get their input on the games and league decisions. We are excited to get the word out to prospective students as well that we are committing to supporting an eSports team,” Damphousse said. “As we work through this first season, I can imagine fielding a varsity team for competition soon, which would include scholarships.”
The university is currently evaluating campus spaces for the eSports team to practice and for competition.
“We have ranked players on our campus in several of the major games,” Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Dr. Bryan Terry said. “In talks with local high schools that have initiated their own eSports teams, we know this is an important student experience they want to be a part of in college.”
As an emerging sports program at many other major universities like University of Utah, the first to have a college-sponsored varsity eSport program among the Autonomy Five conferences, Arkansas State joins a growing number of NCAA Division I universities creating eSport teams.
Arkansas State will request membership this fall in the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), and is the second Sun Belt Conference member (Georgia State) allied with the national organization. Notable names among NACE members are University of Missouri, University of Oklahoma, Western Kentucky University and University of North Texas.
Other affiliations under consideration for next spring in 2020 include the College Championship for League of Legends hosted by the game’s maker, Riot Games. Several more Division I universities are a part of the national League of Legends tournament.
The university also will investigate hosting high school competitions with local and Northeast Arkansas schools.
“A large number of potential new students have a great interest in eSports and we want to make those students aware of our program,” Terry said. “We are looking forward to hosting high school tournaments on our campus.”
While the sport is in the club phase, the team will operate under the management of executive director for club sports, Matt Huckaby. Huckaby serves as the director over A-State’s highly successful, national champion club teams.
The university has two additional collaboration areas for the new eSport program. Not only is New York Institute of Technology home to an eSports team, the College of Osteopathic Medicine has already conducted research into impacts of eSports on player health. The eSport team is also of interest to students at Arkansas State’s Campus Queretaro.