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University forming varsity esports team

January 25, 2019
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esports university varsity Overwatch match
Collegiate esports players compete in a varsity "Overwatch" match. Photo via wikimedia.org

A local university is adding esports to its varsity athletic program.

Davenport University said last month it plans to begin the competitive video gaming team this fall.

Davenport said popular games for esports include “Fortnite,” “League of Legends,” “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” “Call of Duty,” “Hearthstone” and “Overwatch.”

The school plans to renovate space for a gaming facility adjacent to the main arena court in its student center in Caledonia Township, at 6191 Kraft Ave. SE.

Davenport will purchase the appropriate consoles, including screens, gaming equipment and chairs.

It is not disclosing the cost of the project and has not yet determined the firms involved.

Andrew Smith began this week as the new head coach for the team. Smith is owner of Lowell-based Horizon Cut Studios, a "sculpture, model and carving shop" servicing the video game and board game industries.

Smith will be responsible for recruiting student-athletes, in addition to providing insight into planning and schematics for the esports gaming lab. 

"From his varied experience in developing and designing games to his role as an educator, Andrew's passion for gaming and the continued growth of his craft was evident,” said Paul Lowden, executive director of intercollegiate athletics, Davenport University.

Davenport is in the process of hiring the first assistant coach and will hire a second next academic year.

The goal is to recruit 20 new students to Davenport for fall 2019 and offer scholarships to qualified team members, with the potential to grow the team to 40 or more players in the coming years.

"Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and we feel it not only fits into our sports programming, but also aligns well with our academic offerings," Lowden said.

"Students who join our esports program will have the opportunity to pursue their passion for gaming, while earning a degree in one of our leading academic programs, including business, technology and health."

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