Pressing Play: Making Gaming into a Sport at UW-Stout

Evan Thue

Three weeks ago, University of Wisconsin–Stout announced that by the Fall of 2020, UW-Stout would have a fully functioning Esports team.

Andrew Cleveland assistant director of student life and services and David Beck Director, school of art & design and associate dean of the college of arts, humanities, and social science (CACHSS) were “designated as the shepherds of this project moving forward,” said David Beck.

“This past year hasn’t been the first year that Esports has been discussed, but this is where the stars aligned for it to be developed into a proposal for the chancellor” said Andrew Cleveland.

Beck felt for some years now that Stout was the perfect place to have an Esports team “every time I saw an article, I just thought to myself, man Stout is perfect for this.”

Esports in general has been on the rise in popularity recent years, especially telling with 2018 League of Legends World Championship gaining twice the number of viewers than the Super Bowl (according to Interpret).

Cleveland and Beck aren’t the only one’s helping to make this project reality. Kayla Frohmader and Hannah Bregelman are also involved as well giving this project very solid ground.

This is a very unique type of program, something that isn’t quite one thing but rather a mix of a lot of different things. “[It’s an] interesting mix, extracurricular, student life and academics,” said Beck. “Not in the sense that these students will be major in this but in the sense that we utilize the same facilities, by day using a computer lab and by evening using it as a practice area.”

The next step of the process now involves building this up, “were in the building phase, you have the idea and you want to build the program and then you announce that you’re going to build the program and then you work on the details,” said Cleveland.

Some of those details include things like coaches, game selection, and recruitment, along with many other things to go with that. Cleveland explains that a lot of what they are doing is relying on NACE (The National Association of Collegiate Esports) and trying to figure out what are the best practices in creating something like this, so they are not recreating the wheel.

“According to NACE stats all the universities and their association within the first three years report exponential growth of their program”

As far as recruitment goes Cleveland and Beck are going to use similar models that other campuses have used for recruitment. They use a Hybrid model that “has the tryout’s to be for students already on campus…but also reserve another half for incoming students because we would like to attract new talent,” said Cleveland.

Having an Esports team come to UW-Stout is not only exciting for the students on campus now, but for the students that will be on campus for years to come.

“The fact that it exists at here at UW-Stout is exciting” and not only just attracting students from the United States but from outside the country as well.

Beck feels the same excitement that he felt when the game design major was first introduced to campus, and while back then there were some who wondered how well game design would do. It has taken off, and Beck feels just excited now about this project as he did back then and admits he doesn’t know how big this could grow, “Maybe we do see some program growing out of this, minor and major.”

The end goal is Fall 2020 and when asked if they feel confident with all of this being done by Fall 2020 they both smiled and agreed “100 percent.”