On October 30th, Harrisburg University of Science & Technology (HU) has recognized eSports as one of the official varsity sports teams, and is planning to offer 15 full scholarships for players of the eSports teams.
This indicates that the event model will be on the same level with other traditional sports such as American football, basketball, and baseball. The recruitment will be done through an official procedure, and high-end equipment, head coach, and locker room are expected to be provided for players, in order for them to serve their role as a professional team. In particular, this is the first case in Pennsylvania that full scholarships are given for eSports players.
Global Inven had met Dr. Eric Darr at HU, who is also the CEO of the designated eSports district, and had an interview where we heard reasons of establishing a collegiate varsity eSports team, and management plans in the future.
Q. HU will become the first Pennsylvania university to offer eSports scholarships. How and why did you decide to start an eSports scholarship program at HU?
Harrisburg University is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) university. Our school doesn’t currently offer any traditional sports programs, but our students have long held interests in eSports. We have a dynamic eSports club, which is the largest club on campus, and I [Eric Darr] am a gamer myself. It was a natural fit for us to follow the interests of our student body and faculty and bring an eSports program to the college.
Q. At other colleges or universities offering eSports scholarships, they are tiered at either half and three-quarter scholarships. Will HU follow that model, or will you actually consider full scholarships for eSports students?
Harrisburg University is 100% committed to making this program the best it can be and will solely be offering 15 full scholarships for students in the collegiate varsity eSports program.
Q. Will you be recruiting eSports talent solely for undergraduate studies? Or, might this apply as well to graduate studies?
We plan to recruit eSports talent on all levels, both undergraduate and graduate students.
Q. Will HU be seeking eSports talent internationally or primarily from within the USA?
Harrisburg University has one of the most diverse international student bodies among private colleges, with representation from 80 different countries. We’d like to encourage this same representation within our eSports teams.
Q. High schools have always been a feeder for traditional college athletics. Do you envision this occurring with eSports as well? And, if so, do you intend to connect with groups like the High School eSports League (HSEL) based in Kansas City, Missouri?
Harrisburg University strongly believes in building STEM programs in schools to teach students the importance of science and technology early on, and we believe eSports can be incorporated into schools in a way that’s educational and practical. We see eSports programs following a similar approach to high school and collegiate athletics, serving as a pathway for students as young as Middle School, all the way to a professional level.
There are many school districts in Pennsylvania that currently have active eSports clubs and gaming programs for students. We’ve already met with PIAA with the hopes of following in Connecticut’s footsteps in sanctioning eSports at the high school level here in Pennsylvania. It’s our hope that our actions spark a larger movement within the whole state to incorporate eSports programs for students.
Q.How does the HU intend to support its eSports teams in terms of finances, facilities, and exposure?
We’re taking this very seriously. In addition to offering full scholarships, we’ve already taken the steps to invest in state-of-the-art gaming equipment for the team and our students. We also plan to recruit a professional eSports player as the head coach to give students the mentorship they deserve and the best possible experience. We are also in the final negotiations of creating a “locker room” hub for the varsity team, as well as the club team. We see the opportunity to make this a real spectator sport. Harrisburg University aims to make a major impact in the collegiate eSports space with this new program through our engagements with local and national vendors, a partnership with NACE, and investments in the coaching staff, team, and equipment.
Q. What eSports game franchises does HU intend to compete?
Harrisburg University will have varsity teams competing in League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone, which are recognized as three of the most popular eSports games in the world. We’ll also have a competitive team in NBA 2K as part of a pilot program with NACE.
Q.When does HU plan to launch this program?
We are slated to begin the Fall semester of 2018.
More information on this is available at http://www.highschoolesportsleague.com/