eSports curriculum, team created at WKU

Monica Kast

The WKU eSports team is preparing for the upcoming competition season as well as working with the Gordon Ford College of Business to help students with a desire to work in the gaming industry.

Patricia Todd, marketing department chair and co-advisor of the League of Legends Club at WKU, said the eSports program “is really in its infancy,” but is hopeful because they have received the support of President Gary Ransdell.

“It’s really a growing area,” Todd said about the industry. “A lot of needs in a lot of places.”

Todd added that currently in the marketing department, students are able to have a social media concentration as well as work toward a certificate in applied data analytics. Todd said she’s worked closely with members of the eSports team to create curriculum that will help students who want to work in the gaming industry after graduation.

“It’s current curriculum,” Todd said. “We can always, in the marketing department anyways, focus on projects that are geared to the gaming industry.”

The eSports team has also recently began pursuing corporate sponsorship, according to Todd.

Twitch, a potential sponsor, is “the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers,” and a division of Amazon, according to the Twitch website.

Louisville sophomore John Hay has been working to organize the eSports program and the Twitch sponsorship. He said whenever the academic portion of the program is approved, the sponsorship will become official.

“As of yet, Twitch has partnered with several schools,” Hay said. “But I don’t know that anyone has taken them up seriously on the academic partnership.”

Twitch, described as “social video for gamers,” attracts over 100 million viewers per month, according to its website. Video game competitions are often broadcasted on the Twitch website.

Last semester, SGA passed Resolution 3-16-S, in support of creating an eSports program and a designated space for the team.

The resolution outlined the growing popularity of eSports on college campuses as well as scholarship opportunities for students involved with eSports.

Jay Todd Richey, SGA president, was a co-author of the resolution and included the creation of an eSports program as part of his platform when he ran for president last semester.

“All students should find their niche at WKU,” Richey said. “If we are truly a leading American university, we need to take the lead in getting this program secured, well funded and popular to be a premier program in the United States.”

Richey said although there has not been a permanent, designated space for the eSports program, the SGA Executive Cabinet has agreed to allow the eSports team to use the SGA offices after 5 p.m. Richey said this would allow them space for equipment, as well as direct internet connections.

Hay, however, said the SGA offices do not have the proper equipment in order to play and compete.

Richey said both he and Ransdell have met with a representative from Twitch, and are both excited about the potential an eSports program has for WKU.

At the SGA meeting on April 26, the Herald reported that the resolution passed with some debate. Senator and eSports team member, John Hay, was an author on the bill.

“Colleges have started to make these programs where collegiate teams are competing against other colleges for scholarship money and tens of thousands of dollars,” Hay said at the senate meeting. “There is a big demand for people that are interested in gaming and competitive gaming to find a place where they can go to college.”

According to Todd, there are few other eSports programs on the collegiate level in Kentucky.

While the team has been created and is preparing for competition, Todd said the team is still looking for a permanent place to practice on campus. Additionally, the team is looking for sponsors to provide equipment for competitions.

“Our biggest challenge has been to find sponsors that provide us with equipment in order to be competitive,” Todd said.

Hay said as soon as a permanent place to practice is secured as well as proper equipment, the sponsorship with Twitch will go into effect.

Additionally, Todd said it is important for curriculum offered at WKU to help students who want to pursue a job in the gaming industry after graduation to be able to do so.

“What we’re trying to do at Gordon Ford College is to provide students who graduate with jobs, and recognize that there’s a real demand in the industry,” Todd said.

Hay said while there are currently five members on the eSports team, they are looking for more competitors to start a second team or as substitutes. Although Hay is not on the team itself, he has been the one to organize the eSports team and program.

“It’s been real fun for me to see it come together,” Hay said.

Reporter Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monicakastwku.