Earlier this month the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF) and the BIG EAST Conference announced a three-year agreement that will enable all 11 member schools to compete in a year-long multi-game season for the first time as official EGF Collegiate league members.
On this edition on SportsJam, EGF CEO Eric Johnson joins host Doug Doyle to talk about the growing popularity of Esports on campuses and how this latest agreement will impact students and schools in the area.
The EGF Collegiate season began this month and features nationwide intercollegiate compeition in two eight-week splits as well as conference championships, regional players and the EGFC National Championship to be held April 24-25, 2021.
Eric Johnson says EGF is honored to ahve earned the trust and respect of all of the BIG EAST schools and conference leadershp. Johnson stresses college and high school students who are playing these video games at a high level are really helping them develop major skills.
"It's not just hand-eye coordination anymore. It's hand-eye coordination with the ability to process multiple different things at the same time and also use problem-solving skills to be able to unlock maps and unlock areas and strategies that are much more complex than games in the past. That is why every branch in the military actively markets in this space. This is a very important target to recruit from because the technology used in the military today often requires those same skills."
As a result, colleges and universities are offering scholarships to students who excel in Esports.
"We really focus on this being an opportunity for students to compete, for students to earn scholarship for competing, for students to be able to make money for the schools and I think once you build an alumni base, I believe firmly that Esport will be the third revenue-driving sport on campus. It'll go football, basketball, Esport in this decade It's going to happen."
One of the most popular games being played at a tournament level is called Rocket League, a combination of soccer and demolition derby.
"Rocket League is a great one and probably one of the ones I enjoy watching the most because I grew up playing soccer. The idea of having a dome where everything is contained and the ball that moves back and forth with three cars on the map trying to knock the ball into the goal takes a little demolition derby and a little bit of soccer and puts them into some hyper-fueled rocket engines, that's part of it. We ran a Rocket League on ESPN2 this past Spring. It's a good sport to be on television because even if you don't play the sport, within minutes you get the concept of everything that's going on."
Before COVID came along, Johnson, his wife and youngest son spent time living in both New York City and Los Angeles, but they've stayed on the West Coast during the pandemic. Johnson says COVID has actually led to more opportunities for EGF and Esports.
"The COVID environment impacted all of us and I have a lot of background in sport and feel very bad for what it's done to college athletics for the Fall season in particular but Esport is able to, through technology, to be played from the home as easily as from the campus or from the school. We took advantage of that and ended up working with a number of schools who were looking for some way to create normalacy for their students who were going through a tough Spring. For the most part all of our teams are playing from their home."
Broadcasts of all its matches are being streamed on EGF's Twitch channels, the BIG EAST YouTube channel and various institutional platforms.
The BIG EAST members, located in eight of the country's top 36 largest media markets, include Seton Hall University, St. John's University, UCONN, Villanova University, Butler University, Creighton University, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Marquette Unviersity, Providence College, and Xavier University.
Click above to hear more from Eric Johnson on SportsJam.