Connect

Midland University - Fremont, Ne
 
 

Midland University to launch eSports as the school’s 28th varsity intercollegiate program

Midland University to launch eSports as the school’s 28th varsity intercollegiate program

Home to Nebraska’s largest athletic department, Midland University has announced it will begin competing in its 28th varsity sport next fall, adding what is poised to become one of the fastest growing collegiate team activities. Consisting of a variety of competitive online gaming platforms, eSports match up teams of competitors representing their institutions in online competition. 

“At Midland, we enable students to pursue their passions in community. The emerging generation of students is heavily invested in online pursuits, and it’s our desire to see them learning and competing in a collaborative environment,” said Midland University President Jody Horner. “Whether they are participating in traditional athletics, the performing arts, or emerging eSports, we find that students who are highly engaged in extracurricular activities are more successful academically.”

Already home to a successful competitive gaming club program, Midland will become the region’s first university to elevate eSports to varsity level competition. With the support of interested donors, Midland University will be offering scholarship opportunities as it begins recruiting for the team’s debut season in the 2016-2017 academic year. In addition to scholarships, the university will offer free room and board for the fall semester to new applicants that are accepted onto the team by June 30th, 2016. 

“By offering scholarships in eSports, we believe we will attract skilled competitors while expanding access to high quality education for a new generation of students,” said Horner. “As employers increasingly seek graduates with technology-driven skill sets, providing students with these interests the opportunity to advance their education is becoming essential to our community.” 

Midland holds a unique track record when it comes to expanding extra-curricular opportunities on its residential campus. As part of its commitment to creating a comprehensive college experience, since 2009, the university has added 12 varsity sports teams, 12 junior varsity programs, and expanded to more than 250 opportunities in the performing arts. 

The Warriors are anticipating competition in the Collegiate Star League for the 2016-2017 season with a varsity team competing in “League of Legends,” and additional teams to be added in subsequent years. The Collegiate Star League is home to more than 200 institutions with club level teams as well as the nation’s varsity level programs. The university has initiated a search for the program’s first head coach and has begun accepting applications to join the new eSports program. Prospective students seeking an opportunity join the Midland eSports team should inquire via email at eSports@midlandu.edu or by calling (402) 941-6503. 

“This is a rapidly emerging form of championship competition and we will pursue the same level of excellence we expect in the other 27 varsity programs we offer,” said Midland University Director of Athletics Dave Gillespie. “We want to see all of our teams well coached, enhancing character, and building community.” 

The university has begun the design work necessary to replace the university’s current gaming area with a state of the art, competitive gaming arena. The project joins other construction under way on campus as the university prepares to open a new expanded-hours eatery and coffee shop. In addition, the university has announced plans to complete more than $1 million in upgrades to its main campus dining hall that will bring farm-to-table fresh foods to university students. 

Midland’s move to add varsity level eSports puts the university at the leading edge of a sport that is a rapidly emerging international phenomenon. Robert Morris University in Chicago became the first university to offer eSports scholarships in 2014 and the sport’s popularity has continued to accelerate, earning increasing levels of media exposure with the 2015 League of Legends World Championship final match drawing more than 36 million viewers worldwide. The sport’s growth on college campuses reached a new level with the Big Ten Network televising a match between club teams from Michigan State University and Ohio State University this April. 

"We've had a quality gaming team for some time, and I believe this program will take us to a new level,” said Diamond 5 ranked League of Legends player and Midland student Joey Evans. “This program is great for students who excel at games, and they will have the camaraderie of their team throughout their college years.”

Creation of the eSports team may have a larger impact on the Midland campus. The university is actively engaged in conversations with corporate partners that are interested in sponsoring the program as well as investing in computer science and related fields. It is anticipated the program will help fuel additional interest in the information technology fields.

The announcement is the latest in a series of successes for a university that has seen enrollment more than double in recent years amidst expanded student opportunities and the launch of a unique 4-Year Graduation Guarantee. 

Midland’s other varsity programs include men’s and women’s basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, ice hockey, shotgun sports, soccer, tennis, track & field, and wrestling. The university also offers varsity programs in cheer, dance, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and women’s lacrosse.