Marquette is first major conference NCAA Division I institution to add a varsity esports program in athletics

Varsity esports team will launch in fall 2019

Jan. 23, 2019 MILWAUKEE – Marquette University will launch a varsity esports team in fall 2019, which will be the first in the nation run by a major conference Division I athletics program, the university announced today. Esports – the world of organized video gaming – mirrors the traditional athletics team model with many of the same benefits for players: leadership development, teamwork, communication and the pursuit of excellence.

When it launches in fall 2019, Marquette’s varsity esports team will be run like any other varsity sport: there will be tryouts, a coach will be hired, regular practices will be held and the team will represent Marquette at esports tournaments. The new varsity team will be managed by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, in close collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs, the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of Admissions.

“Being named after an explorer means it’s in Marquette’s DNA to define the opportunities of tomorrow and ensure we’re anticipating what future students will expect,” said President Michael R. Lovell. “Marquette embraces new methods of teaching and areas of study, and esports and gaming in general have the potential to impact both, while also helping to strengthen our student recruitment prospects in an increasingly competitive environment.”

With the estimated global audience for esports expected to increase to 580 million people by 2020, the creation of a varsity esports program aligns with Marquette’s ongoing commitment to support a variety of student interests and provide innovative avenues for student success. 

In addition to participating in organized collegiate esports competition, Marquette expects its esports program will positively impact student engagement and enrollment. Approximately 35 percent of North American League of Legends players – one of the most popular esports game titles – are full-time college students and 47 percent of these players do not participate in traditional school activities. Approximately 70 percent of collegiate esports players identify as students pursuing a major in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

"College students make up one of the largest groups of League of Legends players in North America, and when combined with the BIG EAST entrance into League of Legends, Marquette's investment charts a course for being a strong force in college esports," said Michael Sherman, College Esports Lead at Riot Games. 

Marquette has had an esports club team since 2015. About 40 students, mainly in STEM fields of study, participate in the club team, which represents Marquette at BIG EAST-sponsored esports tournaments.

“Marquette has been closely watching the development of esports, both as a global trend and as an integral part of the future of the BIG EAST Conference,” said Bill Scholl, vice president and director of athletics at Marquette. “We expect that our varsity esports team will collaborate closely with our Department of Computer Science, positively impact student recruitment, and provide an avenue for leadership development and teamwork opportunities for students who many not otherwise have been engaged in activities outside the classroom.”

Marquette has been working in partnership with Intersport, a Chicago-based marketing and consulting firm, to structure its esports program. The Intersport Esports Group includes Kurt Melcher, executive director of esports, who established the first varsity collegiate esports program in 2014 at Robert Morris University Illinois. 

Marquette will work with corporate partners and donors to build an area for the varsity esports team to practice together on campus, which will include multiple gaming systems, a dedicated broadcast and production station, and a casual, console gaming area. When not being used by the varsity esports team, the space will be available to student groups and activities.

“We anticipate that faculty from computer science, physics, mathematics and other disciplines throughout the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences will collaborate closely with Intercollegiate Athletics to help connect students who have an interest in esports with relevant academic content,” said Dr. Rick Holz, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. “Esports is just one of many pathways for our students to experience hands-on learning opportunities.”

For more information about esports, visit


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