ASHLAND — Esports – competitive, professional video gaming – is coming to Southern Oregon University in a variety of formats, following a survey earlier this year that showed high interest among students. The university is planning for both intramural and intercollegiate esports competition, and is creating an academic minor in esports management.
Esports has grown over the past 20 years to become a billion-dollar annual enterprise, and the academic offerings will help SOU students position themselves for positions in the fast-growing industry.
“Esports will be an additional offering to our students and will be beneficial to recruitment and retention of students to SOU,” said Eva Daliana, team sports coordinator for SOU Campus Recreation and organizer of the university’s esports teams.
Launch dates for both the competitive and the academic esports offerings have not been determined.
SOU plans to open an Esports Lab in its Student Recreation Center that will house multiple computer gaming stations, one of which will be reserved for streaming and esports commentating – known as “shoutcasting.”
Precious Yamaguchi – an SOU Communication Program faculty member and advisor of the university’s Video Gamers Coalition – saw the success that other schools were having with their esports teams when she attended a convention of theNational Association of Collegiate Esports. Daliana then helped to organize the survey at SOU, which generated 335 student responses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed but not stopped momentum for SOU’s esports programs. The Student Recreation Center is closed and in-person club meetings are not currently being held. But Daliana and SOU School of Businessfaculty member Jeremy Carlton are planning an esports open forum on Zoom at noon on Wednesday, May 20.
Carlton is organizing the esports management academic minor. Preliminary plans for the program call for new courses that include Introduction to Esports Management and Contemporary & Ethical Issues in Esports. A variety of existing management and marketing classes will also be required for the minor.
The program was accepted by the university’s curriculum committee and then was approved this week by the Faculty Senate.
The university’s intercollegiate team will compete against teams from other colleges and universities, but it’s yet to be determined which collegiate esports league the SOU team will join and what games the team will play. The most popular choices among students who participated in this year’s survey were “Apex Legends” and “Call of Duty.”