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Utah's addition of e-sports program will spur other power conference schools to do same, professor says

Thursday, April 06, 2017

LAWRENCE — The University of Utah announced this week it is forming a college-sponsored e-sports program, making it the first school among the Power 5 conferences with such a program. Numerous smaller schools around the country have varsity-sponsored teams of students dedicated to competing in online and video games against students from other schools, but Utah’s announcement brings the growing activity to a higher level of national prominence.

Jordan Bass, associate professor of sport management at the University of Kansas, has studied college e-sports and is available to speak to the media about the story. Bass co-authored a study examining whether e-sport participants consider themselves athletes, what their motivations are for taking part in the venture and how their experiences compare to those of traditional college athletes. He can comment on e-sports, the competitions, the growing popularity of e-sports, how they fit on college campuses and in athletic departments, what they mean for students and higher education institutions, e-sports competitions, scholarships for gamers, schools using e-sports as a recruiting tool, the NCAA and NAIA not sanctioning e-sports and related topics.

“The announcement that Utah is adding a varsity e-sports program is a major step toward the mainstreaming of collegiate e-sports,” Bass said. “Hundreds of universities across the country host e-sports teams in some capacity, but a Power Five school adding e-sports to its varsity programs will only help spur the other power conference schools to do the same.”

Utah announced it will begin competition in the game "League of Legends," then expand to others in the future. The program will be sponsored by the university’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering video game development department. In their research, Bass and co-authors found that e-sports participants do tend to consider themselves athletes, acknowledge stereotypes and challenges in gaming, cite intense practices (among other things) as justification for the athlete tag, and many hope to go pro.

To schedule an interview with Bass, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or

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