Minnesota West considers bringing esports to college

Minnesota West Community and Technical College men’s athletic director Bob Purcell is intimately familiar with traditional sports — the kind where athletes move on floors and grass, lift weights and run sprints to continually improve their physical endurance. Until recently, he’s not been so familiar with esports, the sports of the new age — where competitors sit in chairs, watch computer monitors, and manipulate figures on screens with their fingers.

But the year is 2020, and Purcell is now at the forefront of bringing team esports to the college next year or soon after that.

And you know what? He’s getting into it.

“I think it would be exciting. I’m kind of excited,” he said Thursday. “I’m not going to get overly excited until the right person tells me, ‘Let’s go for it.’”

Already, Worthington High School has an esports gaming club called Worthington Esports Trojans. Students compete together in titles such as CSGO, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros., and one of the benefits is that members don’t have to be able to lift 200 pounds over their heads, complete the 100-meter dash under 12 seconds, or put a basketball into a hoop from 18 feet away.

Esports is exploding in the college ranks, and that includes schools close to home. Southwest Minnesota State University, which announced esports as its “19th varsity sport” early last fall, is planning to host its first-ever esports camp next Saturday and Sunday at its Marshall campus. Last summer at Minnesota State University in Mankato, esports enthusiasts joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and a varsity team was developed along with a training facility. Attempts to expand the league are continuing.

Both men and women can compete together at esports, and it already inspires a hefty viewing audience. Some experts predict the sport will reach 300 million frequent viewers worldwide by 2023.

It’s also a big business, and some championship tournaments get more viewers than traditional popular sports. The 2019 League of Legends World Championship Grand Finals, in fact, attracted more than 100 million spectators — more spectators than the 2020 Super Bowl attracted.

Much money can be made, too, by esports gamers. At the 2019 Dota 2 battle arena championships in Shanghai, winners received more than $3 million apiece.

At Minnesota West, Purcell is researching issues involved with installing esports at the two-year school. Among the issues he’s looking at are:

  • Gaming equipment. Updated…

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