CCCAA consider adding esports as a discipline

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Members of the Board of Directors for the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) discussed the possibility of introducing esports as an option for schools to compete in during its Feb.11 meeting.

The CCCAA board considered adding esports as a college athletics discipline due to its increasing popularity among younger generations of potential students.

“The younger generations are the ones that are watching this. About a third of those 34 and younger are watching esports tournaments,” said Ulises Velasco, Vice President of Student Services at Mendocino College.

According to data from the consumer profiler GlobalWebIndex (GWI), 32 percent of global internet users aged 16 to 24 say they’ve watched esports tournaments as of July of 2019.

Board members supporting esports in the CCCAA said that its integration would bring in more student-athletes and provide more opportunities.

“We would have new student-athletes that might not compete otherwise,” said Stacy Thompson, Vice President of Academic Services at Chabot College.

Esports advantages and disadvantages

Thompson and Velasco spoke to the board representing the CCCAA’s esports task force, which was created in June of 2019. They demonstrated a presentation during the meeting which showed the benefits of esports in college athletics and how several junior colleges and universities are already involved.

One of those benefits is that it would open another opportunity for students to obtain money for their education.

“In terms of scholarships, we would have new student-athletes and an increased graduation rate. Some four-year colleges offer [esports] scholarships,” said Thompson

The presentation demonstrated that 175 colleges and universities are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), a nonprofit organization focusing on the development of esports at colleges that was founded in 2016. All member institutions of this organization offer some form of scholarship for esports, whether fully or partially.

Location convenience for students is another advantage to esports.

Unlike traditional sports, students would have the option to choose whether or not they want to travel to a competition, allowing for more flexibility when following a schedule.

“You can be at your campus and compete or you can travel. It’s an option students would have,” said Thompson.

Adopting esports into the CCCAA faces several challenges.

One of those is addressing the perception that esports aren’t real sports and promote people to spend more time in front of a screen and become less active.

In response to this concern, Velasco said the CCCAA would have to structure esports in a way that promotes both gaming and exercise in a positive manner.

“Those are very valid points and concerns,” said Velasco. “If we decide to move this forward that could certainly be a recommendation from the CCCAA as we develop the rules and the guidelines to structure it in such a way that it’s not just video game playing for the athletes.”

Amateurism in esports is another problem for the CCCAA.

The presentation showed most players doing well in esports already earn money and may not have to participate on the collegiate level for educational motives.

“This is a very lucrative enterprise and many folks who are good at this are getting paid,” said Thompson.

Esports initiative 

The esports task force is currently chaired by Stacy Thompson, Vice President of Academic Services at Chabot College

Despite its recent creation, the task force has already moved quickly to try and make recommendations to the board, even though this has yet to occur.

“A lot of work has been done in a little bit of time,” said Thompson. “One of the things that was suggested was that esports be on the application for community colleges. That hasn’t happened yet, it’s still a recommendation.”

Currently most esports programs at colleges remain intramural and there is debate as to whether or not they should enter the realm of collegiate athletics.

However, Velasco said this might change as more schools continue to adopt esports.

“There’s only a few [esports] varsity squads out there, but even some of the universities that offer it as intramural do have scholarships available. So there is that gearing up for something bigger and greater,” said Velasco.

Should the CCCAA decide to introduce esports, it would draw major attention from the movement due to the organization’s role in college athletics.

“If we decide to move forward with this, we would be at the forefront of this whole movement being a large governing body for [collegiate] athletics,” said Velasco. “It would be a big move on our part to do that.”

Planning for Esports

Planning is something else the CCCAA would need to resolve.

Thompson and Velasco received a recommendation from the board to figure out how many colleges are willing to invest in an esports program.

Compton College President Keith Curry suggested surveying the colleges to know where they sit with esports.

“I think it would be great if we did a survey to the colleges in regards to where they’re at with esports,” said Curry. “That would give us a sense of who would be willing to pay dues as well. That way we could figure out a budget that is based on potential.”

Members within the task force have also discussed a recommendation to suggest to the board about adopting some form of esports this fall, but the board thinks that’s too soon and will require more planning.

“Even if we were going to start esports, I don’t think it’s realistic we could begin in the fall,” said Ventura College President Kim Hoffmans. “It’ll take a little more time to get on the same page.”

“I think the earliest we would be able to start if we were to do this as an organization would be Fall 2022. We want to do this the right way, and I think another year of planning would help us look at the budget and the staffing,” said Curry.