CANTON, Mo. — Culver-Stockton College announced Wednesday it has begun a competitive esports program at the school. The college is recruiting for the team and also searching for a coach. Its first season will begin in fall 2018.
Esports is a term for organized, multiplayer video game competitions.
“We're excited to be one of the first colleges in the Tri-State region to offer this unique program,” President Kelly Thompson said.
The decision to add the new athletic program came after months of market research, visits to other colleges and universities that have esports programs and unanimous approval by the college's board of trustees in September.
A major driver of the decision, Thompson said, is the existing Culver-Stockton esports club, which has been in existance for three years and routinely attracts up to 30 students to each meeting.
Popular video games in which teams compete include “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Hearthstone,” “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Rocket League,” among others. About 40 colleges or universities in the United States — including five in Missouri — currently have varsity esports programs. Culver-Stockton would be the state's sixth.
“The addition of this progressive program puts us in line with a growing number of educational institutions across the U.S. and Canada who have this wildly popular phenomenon,” said Joe Liesen, the esports club adviser and the college's executive director of institutional technology. “Our goal is to create a highly competitive, co-ed program that mirrors our existing traditional programs where academics come first and character development is one of our highest priorities.”
The college intends to recruit a minimum of 12 students to join the esports team, and “generous” scholarships in line with the school's traditional athletic scholarships will be offered to esports recruits, Liesen added.
Esports players don't travel to face other opponents because they compete via the internet or gaming servers. Culver-Stockton is creating a designated space in its Carolyn L. & Robert W. Brown Residence Hall for its esports athletes to use for practices and competitions.
“The room will house the most technologically advanced systems available on the market as well as contain gaming consoles, widescreen TVs and a virtual reality space that can be used for interactive, three-dimensional games,” Liesen said. “When the team is not using the room, it will be available to the entire student body.”
The room is expected to be renovated and furnished within the next several months.
Liesen said he was pleased to announce Wednesday that a prospective female esports participant has contacted the school about the program and soon will visit the campus.
The school has launched the online site esports.culver.edu to provide information about the program.