Lourdes University offers scholarships for new co-ed eSports program

. April 5, 2017.

Good news, moms and dads: video games might have been the best use of your kids’ time, after all.

While you were hassling them about wasting their lives, they were actually building up a diverse portfolio of skills that could land them a scholarship from a prestigious private college.

Lourdes University, an independent Franciscan institution in Sylvania, is gearing up for what may be the future of extracurricular college activities by introducing an eSports program. The school, looking to draw in a more digitally-dextrous batch of matriculates, is offering scholarships for playing video games.

Cory Cahill, assistant coach of Lourdes’ men’s and women’s volleyball programs, has been appointed Director of eSports for the campus. A professional video gamer from 2003-2009, Cahill, who paid for part of his college tuition and bought a car with his winnings from the professional Halo circuit, is tasked with instituting something that initially seems almost too progressive for a school with a conservative reputation.

Turns out, a lot of the push for an eSports program came from Lourdes’ President, Dr. Mary Ann Gawelek, who took over in July of 2016.

Impetus for eSports

“Dr. Gawelek began following eSports a few years ago as several schools throughout the country added the program to their campuses. She saw the advantage of having eSports on a liberal arts campus because of the development of mind, body and spirit,” said Helene Sheets, Director of University Relations. “The program promotes a holistic approach to collegiate athletics. Competitive video gaming requires students to possess excellent critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork skills – which are directly transferrable to academic pursuits.”

Once upon a time, hardcore gamers were known as geeks— a “males only” collective of loners, you’d find them in darkened basements, faces lit by the eerie glow of a computer monitor, their only friends other geeks, linked via the internet from half the world away. Gone— mostly— is that idea though, as eSports have become a dominating spectator sport.

According to ESPN, 205 million people watched or played eSports in 2014, and “more than half of American eSports fans are employed full time, 44 percent are parents and, perhaps most surprising, 38 percent are women.”

“We’re actually a club sport; it’s not an NEI or NCAA-sanctioned sport, so it’s a club, essentially, and we’re offering scholarships for being part of this club, like a pep band or something like that,” said Cahill, who elaborated that the scholarships would range in size depending on the skill set of the player; but, optimally, everyone involved would receive some aid. They’re looking for 30 students for the co-ed program, which would initially focus on League of Legends, but grow to add additional titles including Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch and Hearthstone. Yep, it’s all PC-based, no PS4 or Xbox1 games. All are welcome to try out with Coach Cahill. “Pretty much whoever reaches out, if you have experience, I’m interested in adding you,” he said.

In the Digital Arena

And while Tiffin University is also instituting an eSports program, it doesn’t matter if other area schools plan to adapt, because most of the competitions happen in a digital arena.
“The great thing about [eSports] is limited travel,” said Cahill. “You’re not going to these tournaments, they’re mostly online-based. The competitions are on Saturdays. You don’t miss a lot of classes, and so you’re able to stay on top of your studies and do the gaming. You get to do something you love, but it’s not going to impact you in a negative way.”
A budget hasn’t been established yet, but the club will be converting a weight room in the Russell J. Ebeid Recreation Center to build a gaming arena that includes computers and gaming chairs in time for a fall launch.
Game on.