Video game maker Electronic Arts and Learfield IMG College have teamed up in an attempt to bolster esports on college campuses with a new collegiate esports league.
Level Next, as the league is being called, is a multiyear partnership between Learfield IMG College and EA that will feature at least one of EA’s esports franchises and act as the official home for EA’s collegiate esports champions.
A press release claims that Level Next will be the largest intercollegiate esports league, supporting more than 2,500 schools, and will also be the first supported by official school branding.
Level Next kicks off first with the Fall Champions Series, which will feature EA SPORTS Madden NFL 21. Competition begins on November 9, with registration open to all college students currently attending a four-year accredited university. The competition will follow an eight-week format, with a regular season, playoffs and a championship.
The Fall Champions Series will include cash prizes totaling $150,000, with more than $30,000 that will be awarded directly to campus esports programs through a social marketing competition.
“The creation of Level Next is an unprecedented opportunity for all of our partners within the collegiate ecosystem – from brands who wish to target this unique and fast-growing audience, to universities who aim to tap into significant engagement being generated in and around esports,” said Cole Gahagan, president and CEO of Learfield IMG College. “Given their unmatched track record of innovation and game marketing, Electronic Arts is the absolute perfect partner to join us in this historic launch, tapping into 1.5 million students, and delivering an entirely new experience to over 185 million nationwide college sports fans.”
The league aims to centralize collegiate esports in a way that hasn’t previously been seen.
“Until now, collegiate esports has been primarily small-scale, community-based and fragmented. This program will bring the excitement and camaraderie of college competition to a new level,” said Todd Sitrin, SVP and GM of EA Competitive Gaming Entertainment. “By leveraging EA’s decades of experience at the intersection of traditional sports and esports, and Learfield IMG College’s unprecedented scale and position as the official rights holder for more than 200 universities and conferences, this collaboration will establish a much-needed structure within the collegiate esports ecosystem and help accelerate Madden NFL competitive gaming popularity.”