From Hardcourt to Video Screen: Midland University eSports Team Snags Hoop Star

Matt Giles writes in Inverse: “Joey Evans wants you to know that he is, first and foremost, an athlete. Evans is a member of Midland University’s esports program, the college’s varsity gaming team operating under the auspices of its athletic department. Though there are thousands of clubs around the country devoted to playing Dota 2Call of Duty, and Overwatch at a competitive level, only seven colleges offer scholarships and regularly compete against other institutions. As of this year, Midland is part of this self-selected group. This puts Evans, a 6-foot-5 former Midland basketball player, and the school itself, an exclusively undergraduate institution of just over 1,400 in Nebraska, at the forefront of the college esports revolution.”

“Evans earned a gaming scholarship to Midland by excelling at League of Legends, a wildly popular multiplayer fantasy video game developed by Riot Games that grossed $1.6 billion in revenue in 2015. League of Legends is the lone specialty of Midland’s six-month-old varsity esports team.”

The post continues: “Evans’s decision to quit the basketball team last spring in order to pursue gaming would have raised eyebrows on a different campus, but not so much at Midland, which has a robust esports rec league on campus. Evans was part of that community, but found that he took gaming more seriously than most of his opponents. His approach, naturally, was that of an athlete. His level of devotion didn’t go unnoticed — he got a visit from members of the school’s administration, who had read about esports programs taking off at other small midwestern schools like Robert Morris and Pikeville. Evans quickly formulated the perfect pitch.”

Midland announced that it “will begin competing in its 28th varsity sport in the fall of 2016, adding what is poised to become one of the fastest growing collegiate team activities. Consisting of a variety of competitive online gaming platforms, eSports match up teams of competitors representing each institution in online competition.”

“At Midland, we endeavor to enable students to pursue their passions in community. The emerging generation of students is heavily invested in these pursuits, and it’s our desire to see them learning and competing in a collaborative community,” said Midland University President Jody Horner. “Whether they are participating in traditional athletics, the performing arts, or emerging eSports, we find that students who are highly engaged in extracurricular pursuits are more successful academically.”

“Midland will become the region’s first university to elevate eSports to varsity level competition. With the support of interested donors, Midland University will be offering scholarship opportunities as it begins recruiting for the team’s debut season in the 2016-2017 academic year.”

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