Is there a league that can stand on the same level as the NFL? Maybe the NBA? The MLB? While these are both prestigious leagues, they still slightly fall behind the NFL. The one league that does stand on the same level as the NFL is actually the NCAA. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a college football league that all college football teams from across NA compete. FBS, the top division where a total of 120 teams compete, is broadcasted live nationwide, and even the NFL changes its tournament broadcast schedule in order to avoid competing with the NCAA for viewership.
The reason the NCAA college football league can stand on the same line as the NFL is simple; even though it may be a collegiate league, the performance and level of entertainment are almost on the same level as the NFL. The NFL is well aware of this, which is why the two leagues avoid competing for viewers during the same time slots; though it is a collegiate league, the NCAA has enough draw to bring viewers away from the NFL.
The collegiate league was able to reach its current popularity because it is where future superstars are made and because it provided an independent cultural ecosystem.
However, it was different for esports. There were no lower divisions or collegiate leagues, things that could be seen as the core of the NA sports industry. Only the professional leagues existed. Then an organization offered to pioneer the expansion of NA esports -- the National Association for Collegiate eSports (NACE). The NACE has been supporting the growth of the collegiate leagues so that as the esports scene grows, it will grow better rather than just bigger.
There are now around 50 colleges that have registered at the NACE, and the number continues to grow even now. It has only been 2 years since the NACE was established in Kansas, State of Missouri, on July 28th, and yet it has experienced drastic growth in that short time. This was possible because of the continuous interest in and attention to the esports scene; colleges have begun to view esports not as an extension of playing games, but as a sport.
There was one leading figure in the development of the NACE: Michael Brooks, the Executive Director of NACE. Not only does he oversee the management of the organization and the college scholarships, he is also responsible for planning collegiate esports programs with the cooperation of institutions nationwide.
The reason we should keep our eyes on the NACE is simple: Brooks is a Director of Strategic Partnerships at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). With the experience he has gained from the NAIA, he has developed a keen insight that will help guide the NACE towards a bright future.
The esports market has grown to the point where it can now stand side by side with major sports. Although it may not have grown as steadily as major sports, it is preparing for the next step forward.
What is the future of esports that the NACE’s Michael Brooks sees? Will we be able to see NA collegiate esports leagues soon in the future? It will indeed be interesting to hear the reason NACE pays so much attention to esports at the first IGEC - ESPORTS DEEP DIVE on this upcoming May 1st, at UC, Irvine.