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Discussing Collegiate eSports with Robert Morris University’s Coordinator
Collegiate athletics are at the heart of every college campus. It’s the school colors that are proudly stuck in every storefront of the host town, the main attraction at both homecoming and alumni weekends, and the cause of bringing the general college community together for at least a couple of hours.
With the recent news that Robert Morris University would be the first university to give eSports a varsity ranking and a scholarship worth half of tuition and room/board, I had to sate my curiosity to see what this means for the college sports scene and how someone can jump at this new opportunity to not only pursue their passion for gaming but also pursue a college degree at the same time. I caught up with Kurt Melcher, Robert Morris University’s eSports Coordinator to learn all about this new venture.
Why did Robert Morris University decide that an eSports team would be beneficial to the student population?
Robert Morris University realized that there was a huge underserved community already playing eSports / LoL [League of Legends] competitively at different levels – high school, college, professionally. Just like traditional sports the infrastructure was there to be able to find students and provide the platform for Varsity eSports and bring it forward as a Varsity collegiate sport.
Was the decision met with opposition such as it’s legitimacy as a sport, integration into campus athletics, etc?
There was some skepticism with some of the traditional sport athletes but when they learn more about League of Legends and what it takes to be successful – teamwork, practice, learning new skills – it mirrors what traditional sport athletes are doing as well so they come to a certain level of understanding and appreciation of the game.
What are some of the challenges eSport athletes have in comparison to what could be classified as average collegiate athletics (football, basketball)?
The challenges will be similar to all of the other traditional sports. Making sure athletes find the right balance of school, sport and social life. The key is prioritizing those aspects for collegiate success. RMU is building out an eSport Arena on campus so practice and matches will be on campus. That will be a benefit as the LoL team won’t have to travel and miss classes for practices or games like some of the other sports.
What are some of the challenges the athletes will face in the upcoming season?
The challenges I see for the RMU eSport LoL teams will be trying to be competitive in the first year. The Collegeiate Starleague and IVYLoL have been very difficult and have some very competitive teams. Many of those teams have been together playing for a number of years, all of our players will be new to eachother. We will try our best though!
In your opinion, why should students and even sport spectators care about the ascension of eSports?
I don’t think eSports is concerned about winning over the traditional sport fan. The numbers are already there for the eSport community. In 2013 the LoL World Championship had 32 million viewers – the NBA finals had 26 million. The fan base is set and its growing.
Will you be competing against any rival schools? Rival schools in this context mean, any rival schools you may see during football or any other sport season.
The benefit of eSports is that you can play any school regardless of distance. Our traditional rivalries for other sports are not relevant in that context. I look forward to forming new rivalries with the top LoL teams in the nation – Berkley, San Jose State, Notre Dame, University of Illinois at Champain.
Do you think universities and colleges should pick this sport up into their athletic programs?
While we are the first to offer scholarship for eSports – LoL I hope we are not the last. With University involvement and backing, eSports competitions can take off to a whole new level collegiately.
Has the recent announcement of a varsity scholarship garnished much interest from RMU applicants and current students?
The response has been huge! We have had over 3200 email inquiries about the team and over 130 applicants. We are working hard to make sure we get the best players and most dedicated players who want to learn and get better with professional coaching.
If anyone would like to watch RMU in a tourney or show their support, how could they do so?
Keep an eye on the eSport page on the RMU athletic website
Once teams are formed and leagues are set – announcements of how to follow and watch the first Varsity League of Legends team will released!
Thank you to Mr. Melcher for providing time to explain and sate our curiosity about this new scholarship and what it means for the athletic community. If you would like to know how you can get involved with RMU’s eSport team you can go to their website to learn more.