Universities and sports in the United States are like a needle and thread- one cannot go without the other. Almost all prodigious universities have sports teams that they are renowned for and there are many cases where players who stand out in the collegiate leagues move on to the major leagues.
These star players are often the pride of their schools, so universities do their best to push their players to meet the conditions required to join the major league. This is why the collegiate leagues in North America are more than just leagues held by students or schools-- they are the stage where the future star players can be found and the opportunity to meet them in person.
However, there is one section of collegiate leagues that is often not as renowned as others, even though it is has been growing almost to the same level as pro leagues. The section in question is Esports. There have been skilled players popping up in the Esports scene one after another, and with the increased investments, the prize pools have been growing ever greater. However, Esports still lack the minor leagues that most major league sports have, and universities tend to be less interested in Esports.
That is why it was rather surprising to hear the news about the Esports Arena in UC, Irvine. They provide the students with the same resources that any other college sports program would: professional training with pro gamers and coaching staff, as well as scholarships for their players.
Mark Deppe, Acting Director of UCI Esports, has greatly contributed to the installation of the Esports Arena. He regards Esports with the same respect that other sports hold, and believes it can become even bigger in the future.
This belief is not misplaced if the growth of the scene up till now is any indication. Every part of Esports has flourished; the tournament prizes and viewership of today have grown far beyond what they were when Esports just started back in the early 2000s. The efforts of Director Mark Deppe at UC Irvine during this time may merely seem like a college is dabbling in Esports, but in truth, Deppe has provided the next step forward for Esports.
For certain sports titles to grow successfully, there must be major leagues; however, minor leagues are just as important. Through collegiate leagues, many players will be able to test their mettle and bring out their potential on a large scale.
Esports currently lack these minor leagues; most of the famous players that have joined professional teams just happen to have caught the eye of the team owners. With the current system, one would need both potential and luck in order to join a professional team.
This is why all attention should be focused on the Esports Arena in UCI. Ideally, UCI will be just the start; if more and more universities show interest in Esports, collegiate Esports leagues will finally be established, and the countless amateur players will have the opportunity to prove their potential in an actual league. This could, in turn, increase the player pool across the board, leading to collegiate leagues becoming an independent ecosystem. Capitalizing on this opportunity could open the doors for even more opportunities.
Compared to other sports, the top leagues in Esports aren’t lacking in popularity. However, from a structural perspective of the leagues, Esports is not very stable. Perhaps the current structure of Esports is an unfortunate side effect of its exponential growth; the top leagues were not built with smaller leagues in mind, so there is no properly streamlined path that takes a player from amateur to pro. So while Esports has grown in popularity and size, the quality of its structure still has a lot of room for improvement.
Mark Deppe noticed this flaw -- while everyone else had their eyes fixed on the top, he focused instead on collegiate leagues, something that could function as a stepping stone and foundation for the growth of players. He believed that if Esports is to grow properly, it is necessary to refine its current state rather than just expand.
The start is the most difficult part of any venture. However, those who start before others and pioneer the path forward often find the richest rewards. Those who take on unknown challenges may face uncertain obstacles, but they can relish their victory so much more. Right now, UCI is facing one such challenge, one that could lead to the birth of a future collegiate Esports league.
Director Mark Deppe, one of the foremost pioneers, will be sharing his story about how he is advancing the future of Esports at the 1st Inven Global Esports Conference (IGEC) on the upcoming May 1st at UCI.