eSports to be added as Albright varsity sport

October 1, 2018

Albright College is adding eSports to its varsity athletic program beginning this fall. The new program is being made possible through a gift from the Joyce Family Foundation. Jeffrey Joyce, who heads the foundation, is a class of 1983 alumnus and chair of the Albright College board of trustees.

Students gaming with computer screensDefined as competition involving video games, eSports is Albright College’s 24th varsity intercollegiate athletic program, and it’s first co-ed sport. Albright will compete as a member of the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE), the country’s most prominent organization dedicated to competitive collegiate video gaming. Student-athletes will take part in national competitions for Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch and Hearthstone, as well as Riot Games’ League of Legends, beginning spring 2019.

“We are thrilled to add eSports to our roster of varsity sports for current and future Albright gamers,” said Athletic Director Janice Luck. “This is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and helps Albright position itself as a technology leader. Interest in eSports is growing rapidly on college campuses, and thanks to the generosity of the Joyce Family Foundation, we have the opportunity to be in at the beginning. Students will be able to pursue their passion for gaming while they obtain a great, boundary-crossing education that prepares them for the many paths their life and careers will take them.”

Joyce said the addition of eSports is a response to market research on the interests of students.

“Esports is one of the top requested activities by incoming and prospective students, and it’s a natural fit with the interests of our current students, particularly those in the Gamers Guild. The Joyce Family Foundation is pleased to have the opportunity to support this initiative.”

Albright players will compete and practice as a team using gaming-specific computer technology. As the team forms and begins to practice this fall, they will be located in a computer lab in the Center for Computing and Mathematics. With the support of the Joyce Family Foundation, a space in Albright’s Schumo Center for Fitness and Well-Being will be renovated to serve as the teams’ permanent home. Spectators and peers will be able to cheer on student-athletes through live-streaming via NACE or software such as Twitch.

Albright College also offers a major in game and simulation development. Karen Campbell, acting provost and vice president for academic affairs said, “We anticipate some great synergies between eSports and our program in game and simulation development, one of our signature interdisciplinary majors that integrates computer science, digital media, mathematics, music and physics.”

Andrew Hoffmann, an Albright junior from Ocean City, N.J., is vice president of the eSports club on campus. “I have always played sports since I was young — baseball, basketball, soccer — however, playing video games competitively has always given me a different feeling. I’m so excited to be a part of this new team.”

Since its establishment in the early 2000s, eSports has seen rapid growth in participation and viewership. When NACE officially formed in 2016, only seven colleges and universities had varsity eSports programs. Today, more than 80 institutions have launched varsity programs. According to the spring 2018 issue of the NCAA’s Champion magazine, the 2017 championship match for League of Legends drew 57.6 million unique online viewers; numbers that nearly match the viewership for the final games of the World Series, NBA Finals and NHL finals combined.

For more information, visit Albright Athletics.