The early stages of college esports may have a bit of a different layout than the NCAA structure fans are used to.
The Associated Press reported the Mid-American Conference announced Wednesday that 12 of its member schools are developing an independent Esports Collegiate Conference to “facilitate and foster high-quality gaming competition among collegiate esports teams.
The Associated Press reported that the new conference will “offer structured competition without the extensive rules that govern intercollegiate athletics.”
Removing the guidelines could lead to an alteration of the NCAA’s restrictive amateurism rules. While college athletes traditionally aren’t allowed to make money from their sport, the Esports College Conference could recruit players who have already made money from gaming.
“There’s boatloads of kids out there that want to do this — well, they’re doing it already,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said, according to the AP. “And so to have some level of organization that provides for regular competitive opportunities that are well-run, on a regular basis, we think will give our schools a leg up in terms of attracting these students to campus.”
Steinbrecher said that working outside the framework of the NCAA, which decided last year not to govern esports, will help the conference navigate legal issues, regulatory issues and Title IX rules that could result. The conference will enforce minimum equipment standards, determine which games are acceptable and limit the number of people competing at one time. Universities will determine the size of their teams, how to coach and whether to offer scholarships and financial aid.
College esports teams have started to crop up across the country in recent years, while the AP reported that the Big East, Mountain West, Peach Belt and Metro Atlantic Athletic already have some form of competition. Schools outside the MAC will be able to join the Esports Collegiate Conference, which will have some MAC staff helping facilitate it when it begins competition in 2020-21. There will be a fall and spring season.
The founding members of the conference are the University of Akron, Ball State University, Bowling Green State University, University at Buffalo, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Kent State University, Miami University, Northern Illinois University, Ohio University, University of Toledo and Western Michigan University.
Miami University president Dr. Greg Crawford will be the president of the Esports Collegiate Board of Directors.
“I, along with my presidential colleagues are thrilled by the creation of the Esports Collegiate Conference,” Crawford said in the MAC’s release. “Esports has a growing presence on all of our campuses. Esports Collegiate will provide a framework for competition among peers, and afford another opportunity for student engagement.”