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Oakland U. Forms Michigan's First D-I Esports Team

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The NCAA esports community continues to grow.

Oakland University is the latest addition to the evolving sport. The university in Rochester Hills, Mich. announced the creation of a team on Friday, becoming the first Division I school in Michigan to form such a  program.

“Oakland University strives to be entrepreneurial and open to new approaches to teaching, the student experience, and learning, including novel areas of exploration,” Oakland President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said. “The popularity, learning potential and student engagement possibilities of esports places Oakland in the forefront of translating what can only be described as a phenomenon into a relevant educational context, including strengthening the relationship among emerging media and academic disciplines.”

Oakland will likely build a 12-player team of men and women to begin competing in League of Legends, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros. in the fall of 2020. The school will announce a coach, an on-campus gaming location and player information at a later date.

There are about 170 colleges that are part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, competing across all divisions. The NACE says there are more than 5,000 esports student-athletes, a number that should climb as popularity continues to rise.

“Being a leader in the esports space will also provide many other downstream benefits for the entire university,” said Glenn McIntosh, vice president for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer at Oakland. “We will have the elite esports athletes, room for many more recreational esports participants and engage new fans of the team. In many ways, esports will provide another avenue to help our students get connected and engaged on campus. We know once they get plugged in on campus, it leads to more student success in academic pursuits as well.”

Oakland will receive support from Renegades, a professional esports team owned by former Detroit Piston Jonas Jerebko and based in Auburn Hills, Mich.

“We are very fortunate to have the support and mentorship of Team Renegades. Based at GameTime, the partnership with a professional esports team will provide support and expertise as the University launches its esports initiatives,” Oakland director of athletics Steve Waterfield said. “I expect the varsity team to collaborate with campus partners, and believe that esports has potential to impact student recruitment to the entire University. Esports requires the same teamwork and skill found in other sports and provides participants with opportunities to develop leadership skills.”

Oakland is making a $100,000 investment in esports, stating that the goal is to help build school spirit, connect students, offer people a chance to share their passion for gaming, and provide another chance to support the Golden Grizzlies.

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