Keuka College, a small school in New York’s Finger Lakes region, has had an outsize influence on colleges with esports.
Keuka was one of the first colleges in New York to compete in video-gaming (initially with donated equipment) and the first Division III school to launch a varsity team.
The team and its nine students only won once during its first year of competition in the League of Legends game, says Mark Petrie, vice president for enrollment management and student development.
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Based on surging student interest, the college then upped its investment.
The team now has about 60 members who compete in several games in against higher profile schools such as Brown University and Villanova University in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“It’s exciting for us to play teams of that caliber in a varsity sport,” Petrie says.
Recruiting has also gotten a boost at the 1,700-student school. About 100 incoming students in fall 2019 indicated an interest esports.
“It’s those extra co-curricular activities that make or break where students decide to go,” Petrie says.
Keuka created a minor in esports management about two years ago and plans to launch a major in fall 2020. The school is renovating its student center to add an esports tournament space, which is created a buzz on campus, he says.
“There’s a neon glitz and glitter the goes on around this sport,” Petrie adds.
A college esports community in Kentucky
The University of Kentucky, with about 18 times Keuka’s student population, is not yet planning a degree program, but campus leaders are focused on establishing a campus esports community with global reach, says Deputy CIO Heath Price.
“We think it’s an outstanding opportunity for us to be that much more relatable as we recruit students and as we get students who are already here more plugged in to thinking about career paths,” Price says.
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The university is working with Gen.G, an international esports company, to make esports an element of its recruiting efforts overseas.
Back in Kentucky, the esports program will open a gaming space and small arena on the first floor space of an expanded parking garage on a high profile spot on campus. But Price and other administrators don’t expect esports to overshadow its powerhouse basketball program—yet.
“One day, years from now, it could be that type of environment but that’s not our focus on 2020,” Price says. “We’re focused on putting resources into 30 to 4o competitive players and getting thousands of other student involved something that’s fun, because they have a lot of stresses in their lives.”
Interested in esports? Keep up with LRP’s Academic Esports Conference and Expo.