UB Tech® 2019 esports session track a huge success

Higher ed leaders learned strategies and best practices for navigating this growing field

The UB Tech® conference featured a new session track on the rapidly expanding world of collegiate esports. Session speakers from around the country discussed how to establish, sustain and grow a successful collegiate esports program; shared their experiences; and offered advice for navigating the future of the esports field. Here’s a session roundup.

“Starting an Esports Program: The Impact on Campus Stakeholders” featured Kurt Melcher, the executive director of esports at Intersport and Robert Morris University in Chicago, which launched one of the first collegiate esports programs in the country. The session discussed the “why” of starting a university esports program, and the exploding growth and early stages of development of university-level competitive esports. Melcher is known by many as the godfather of collegiate esports and a pioneer in the field.

“Financing Esports: Fundraising, Finding Corporate Sponsors, Budgeting” featured Jeff Benton, the managing director of esports at Boise State University, which has one of the most well-known collegiate esports programs in the country. Benton discussed the need for an esports program to sell itself or even generate revenue for the institution, and how he raised more than $750,000 from some of the most unlikely sources to build the Boise State esports program in its first year.

“Understanding Esports Athletes, Fans and Gaming Culture” featured the only Canadian institution in the esports track, St. Clair College, and its esports director Shaun Byrne. The presentation focused on the similarities and differences between esports and traditional sports, and between esports athletes and traditional athletes. Byrne discussed how an esports athlete develops and what makes a good performer and a great performer. He also covered the typical myths about a gamer’s lifestyle and the unique stresses facing an esports athlete.

“Esports Arenas and Facilities: What to Build and How to Build It” featured Kathy Chiang, esports arena coordinator at the University of California, Irvine. Chiang highlighted the new esports facility at UCI, which is one of the largest and most well-known in the country. UCI was the first public university to create an official esports program, which is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive programs in the world.

In “Esports Athletes: Recruitment, Retention and Scholarships,” Dana Hustedt, director of esports at Grand View University in Iowa, discussed the ins and outs of recruiting and retaining student-athletes for esports. Hustedt addressed the development of a recruitment philosophy, the best places to find and connect with potential recruits, how to structure campus visits, how to design recruitment timelines, how to make a scholarship offer, and more.

“Esports Technology: Hardware, Infrastructure and Games” covered all aspects of the technology needed to equip a college or university esports program. Two presenters, Ramsey Jamoul, CEO of Midwest Esports, and Joshua Pann, college esports specialist at HP, discussed the types of gaming stations available, network switches, arena layouts, and gaming desks, chairs, peripherals and more.

“The Benefits of Joining an Esports Association” featured National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) Executive Director Michael Brooks and Esports Marketing Director Victoria Horsley. They addressed the benefits and resources the organization brings to colleges and universities starting varsity esports programs, and how NACE is helping to shape the competitive landscape for student-athletes and the schools they represent.

In “Esports Case Study: The Good, the Great, the Challenge,” Chad Schonewill, manager of the Solutions Center and the esports team lead at Colorado College, talked about the evolution of esports at Colorado College and the lessons learned on what it takes to develop, grow and manage a program.

The Esports Track concluded with a panel of esports speakers taking questions from the audience about campus esports and addressing, from a leadership perspective, launching and developing a competitive varsity esports program. The discussion was moderated by Jay Prescott, vice president for student affairs and executive director of esports at Grand View University.

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