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Division I Marquette Announces Esports Program

Andy Berg

Marquette University has announced it will be the first Division I school to launch an esports program.

According to a post on the school’s website, the team will launch in fall of 2019 and will be run like any other varsity sport. In other words, 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 in a statement. "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."

Marquette says it expects its esports program to boost student engagement and enrollment, noting in a press release that 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 anticipates working 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."

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