- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Midland University in Fremont has added more than two dozen programs to its sports roster since 2009. Next year, it’ll add one more: video gaming.

The school of about 1,400 students 30 miles west of Omaha already has a video game club team. Now, it plans to field a varsity-level team in the fall, complete with a coach and scholarships, the Omaha World-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1rKM9js ). It will be the first college in Nebraska to offer video gaming as a sport.

Known as eSports, video game competitions have jumped in popularity at campuses nationwide. Hundreds of schools have club teams, and a small number are offering the activity as a varsity sport with scholarships.

“We wanted to create one more opportunity for students to pursue their passion at the college level,” said Midland spokesman Nate Neufind.

The program has created a conflict for Midland sophomore Joey Evans, who wants to try out for the eSports team. Problem is, he’s already on scholarship as a 6-foot-5 power guard on Midland’s basketball team. Because the video gaming and basketball teams overlap, Evans would likely have to choose one or the other if he makes the eSports team.

Neufind said Midland hopes to tap into a new group of students by offering a varsity eSports team. Midland has been working with corporations interested in helping sponsor the team and supporting computer science and related fields on campus, he said.

He declined to disclose the cost of launching the team, but said the goal is for corporate sponsorship to cover a significant portion. Midland’s video gaming team would compete in the Collegiate Star League, which has 450 college teams from across the United States and Canada.

Midland has started design work on a competitive gaming arena to replace its current gaming area.

Neufind said the decision to establish an eSports team fits Midland’s effort to broaden activities for students. Since 2009, the university has added 12 varsity sports teams and 12 junior varsity programs and has expanded opportunities in the performing arts.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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