Aquinas College is launching an esports program in fall 2019, providing students a new opportunity to participate in competitive video gaming. The College will become the fifth institution in Michigan to offer esports at the college level.
“We feel that this is a terrific opportunity for Aquinas College to be on the forefront of the rise of collegiate esports,” said Aquinas Director of Athletics Nick Davidson. “Through comprehensive research, the college felt this was the right time to provide those interested with not only a great academic experience, but the ability to compete in collegiate esports at the next level. We are very excited to begin this endeavor and look forward to what the future holds for esports at Aquinas.”
Aquinas will apply for membership in NACE, the National Association of Collegiate Esports, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Currently NACE has more than 125 member schools and more than 2,800 student-athletes.
Ninety-four percent of all varsity esports programs in the United States are members of NACE. Aquinas will join Alma College, Siena Heights University, Davenport University, and Northwood University as Michigan institutions officially recognized by the association.
Esports is one of the newest – and fastest-growing – athletic programs in the country. When NACE was formed in July 2016, only seven colleges and universities had varsity esports programs. Currently, there are more than 125 institutions that sponsor esports.
Esports games rely on real-time strategy, teamwork, mental agility and multiplayer online battles. Interest in the sport is on an upward trend. In 2017, the League of Legends World Finals drew 57.6 million online viewers compared to an average of 19.4 million viewers during the NBA finals. Overall, there are 286 million projected esport viewers by 2020.
Aquinas is in the process of hiring a head coach and will begin recruiting a team to compete this fall. Scholarship opportunities will be available.
A new gaming lab on campus will house a practice and competition area. It will be outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment from iBUYPOWER and furnishings from DXRacer, a Michigan-based company.
Intercollegiate competition will begin in fall 2019 for three games: League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League.
In addition to the new esports program, Aquinas is adding new faculty and programs that will continue to offer students expertise that will prepare them for the future job market. Aquinas is hiring in the Computer Information Systems academic department and has launched a Business Administration/Computer Information System dual major, Business Administration/Economics dual major, and a new Preparing Racially-diverse Educators program.
Aquinas launched its Four-Year Guarantee in the fall, promising that students will graduate in four years or the College will waive any additional tuition expense for up to one additional year for outstanding coursework required to graduate.