SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Syracuse University is officially part of a growing trend on college campuses across the country, like SUNY Canton, which has led the way with eSports.
With the addition of SU and Seton Hall, The Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) closed its fall registration in late September with a record 57 eSports members signing up, more than doubling last year’s membership.
SUNY Canton started its program only a couple of years ago, but has quickly grown to multiple games and teams, now totaling about 100 competitors.
The school is also a member of the ECAC and the first college in New York to join the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE).
Junior Emily Oeser is a member of one of two Overwatch teams at SUNY Canton. “Me being competitive, I thought it was the perfect place to breakthrough, really shine and show people what I can do,” she tells NewsChannel 9.
Dan Coonan is Commissioner of the ECAC, “The nice thing is the traditional distinctions between big time DI and DIII don’t necessarily apply in eSports,” he says.
ECAC eSports fall competition began the week of September 30.
This year, the ECAC is sponsoring a competition in nine different eSports games, with distinct seasons of competition in both the fall and the spring, and several in-person events, including the ECAC eSports Championships at HV Gamer Con in Albany in early April.
In addition to offering nine different games, the ECAC will sponsor women’s leagues in addition to its co-ed leagues to assist schools in offering opportunities for women and managing their eSports rosters in an equitable manner.
The ECAC will also sponsor alumni eSports leagues for the first time this year.
Additionally, at year’s end, the ECAC will crown its first ECAC eSports Grand Champion, an honor bestowed on the school that can boast the best across-the-board success in all games over the course of the year.
The 2019-20 academic year marks the 82nd season that the ECAC will be one of the pre-eminent governing bodies in college athletics, welcoming schools ranging from Power 5 conference members through those across Division I, Division II and Division III.
eSports teams and colleges are attracting the attention of computing companies. Extreme Networks hosted a first-ever eSports summit Thursday at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.
“This is like high frequency trading on Wall Street. They’re talking about milliseconds speed, you’re competing next to each other, you’re also competing with people that are a far distance away, perhaps another school in a remote location,” Norman Rice, Extreme Networks Chief Operating Officer, tells NewsChannel 9.
“Our eSports competitors are under the same rules and regulations as our student-athletes are, so we monitor their academics, we monitor their behavior,” says Randy Sieminski, Athletic Director at SUNY Canton.
Oeser adds, “I get messages everyday of new students, high schoolers maybe even younger who are looking to join eSports.”
Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of Overwatch, started a professional league for the game in 2018.
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For more local news, follow Jeff Kulikowsky on Twitter @JeffNC9