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Eagle ESports to Host Signing Day Event Feb. 21

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 21:18pm | By: David Tisdale

Eagle E-SportsA group of University of Southern Mississippi (USM) students will make history Feb. 21 when they take part in a ‘signing day’ ceremony as members of the first teams to make up the Eagle Esports program. The event, which is open to the university community, will be held at 4 p.m. in the R.C. Cook University Union lobby and will include recognition of partners playing key roles in supporting the program.

Eagle Esports includes five teams: League of Legends, Rainbow 6 Siege, Rocket League, Overwatch and Call of Duty. Approximately 60 USM students are participating.

Esports features fall and spring seasons, and several tournaments that USM teams will compete in, including scrimmages or, in soccer lingo, “friendlies” with other schools.

“We’ve had a tremendous response here on both the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses,” said USM Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Denny Bubrig. “Approximately have 150 responded so far this year to a call to revive the gaming community, with casual gaming and community-based tournaments.

“The intercollegiate teams have already scrimmaged against Illinois, Boise State, Florida Southern College, amongst others.”

USM’s teams are preparing for tournaments and leagues through the university’s affiliation with NACE (the National Association of Collegiate Esports) and Tespa, the collegiate tournament league. Currently, USM Esports teams compete remotely, but plans are in the works for an Esports arena in the Thad Cochran Center hallway connecting to the R.C. Cook Student Union.

According to Dr. Bubrig, esports’ rapid growth has spawned new career paths and developed new academic interests, research areas and pursuit. More than 400 institutions have some level of programming now, with approximately 225 awarding scholarships for competition; it is the second-most followed sport in the country, and projected to be a $5 billion industry by the end of this fiscal term.

USM is following a multi-faceted approach in developing its Esports program, which includes having an external relations/community element, a recruiting and retention element, established teams, a training and development angle, and working with academic partners to grow academic and research angles.

“In the last semester alone around the country, we have been made aware of new academic and research programs developing to support new career paths, and even about a half-dozen new degree programs across the country, surrounding the elements of gaming.” Dr. Bubrig said.

For more information about Eagle Esports, email esports@usm.edu.