Point Park University won’t have to construct a playing field before its newest varsity sports team competes next fall. It will, however, have to invest in computers, video game consoles, headphones and other equipment.
The school will recruit 15-20 students – with some scholarship money available – to competitively play video games. The university hasn’t decided which games the players will pursue or which tournaments the team will enter.
Dean of Students Keith Paylo said he’s still figuring out the world of e-sports, but will lean on the yet-to-be-hired coach for expertise.
While school leaders have talked about creating a team for a few years, Paylo said he was sold on the idea when Point Park hosted its first ever e-sports tournament in May.
Hundreds of spectators huddled around big screen TVs to watch gamers play Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers. These competitions are a booming industry valued at more than $1 billion. A Pennsylvania teenager won a $3 million prize this summer in a Fortnite competition.
“This is a very easy sell to folks in the ages of ... anywhere from 15 to 25,” he said.
The hard sell, Paylo said, is to people like himself. At first he was skeptical that video gaming really is a sport, but he said the players will be treated as athletes.
“They have a physical fitness trainer. They’re going to have to maintain certain grade point averages,” Paylo said.
The athletic department is modeling its program after Edinboro University’s. The school near Erie created a team this fall and requires athletes to spend time away from the controller.
Associate Athletic Director Kevin Taylor said while there undoubtedly will be detractors, he thinks the university is ahead of the curve for getting involved in the industry.
“When you look at a sport, it has a skill involved and it has competition and people watching as spectators. It’s hard to deny (that this is a sport) when you see the amount of people that come out to see this type of competition,” he said.
Point Park offers a sports, arts and entertainment management program within the School of Business, which school officials said could also be a draw for student-athletes.