George Fox University will unveil esports intercollegiate and intramural programs in 2021

April 16th, 2021

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Institution cites improving campus experience and expanding undergraduate offerings as reasons for addition

NEWBERG, Ore. – One of the fastest growing sports in the world isn’t played on a field, a pitch or on a court. It is played on a computer, is called “esports,” and will be added to George Fox University’s undergraduate program offerings in the fall of 2021.

Esports, short for “electronic sports,” are team-based video game competitions watched in person or online by spectators on streaming services like Twitch. The sport emerged as a $1.1 billion industry in 2019 and by 2020 had captured a global fan base of 586 million. At the collegiate level, more than 200 varsity esports programs competed in the U.S. last year, up from 130 the year prior, making it the fastest growing college sport in the nation.

And, with more than 70 percent of high schools considering starting an esports program, the timing is ideal to add it to George Fox’s undergraduate offerings, according to Athletic Director Adam Puckett.

“The growth of esports over the past two to three years has been staggering, and the question is no longer if esports should be added at George Fox University, but rather when would we add it,” he said. “We are excited to be on the forefront of bringing esports to the Northwest Conference, and the sense of excitement from current students and incoming students demonstrates that it will be an enormous enrollment and participation driver at George Fox.”

George Fox plans to offer both intramural and intercollegiate programs, complete with a 1,200-square-foot arena in its Wheeler Sports Center dedicated to the sport. And, just like traditional athletic teams, participants will don uniforms and interact with teammates and a head coach as the games unfold.

The university will play both regional and national schools. It is the first institution in its Northwest Conference to offer esports.

George Fox has made the addition official by joining the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), an organization founded in 2016 that now includes more than 170 member institutions, representing 94 percent of all varsity programs across North America. A head coach will be hired to head the program, which will be a coed team.

The university has yet to reveal which esports games will be offered. As part of the research process, the institution is polling current students to gauge interest on how they would like to be involved (as players or fans, and in what capacity, either intramurals or intercollegiate), and what games should be played. Among the games being considered are League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Hearthstone, Fortnite, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Beyond creating a new outlet for competition, the benefits of esports include improving players’ communication, teamwork, and social and analytical skills, as well as their memory and concentration, critical thinking, determination and mental toughness, Puckett said.

“Esports already exists on our campus,” he added. “Organizing esports as an intercollegiate sport allows us to serve students by building community, creating relationships and providing structure that ultimately delivers on our university mission to prepare students spiritually, academically and professionally to think with clarity, act with integrity and serve with passion.”

The first esports event dates to 1972, when 10,000 attendees turned out for a competition and the prize for the winner was a one-year subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. College esports began in the U.S. in 2009, when schools began forming clubs to compete in tournaments. High schools have cited the opportunity to improve the campus experience for students and fostering STEM learning as reasons for starting esports, according to a survey from Extreme Networks and eCampus News.

For more information on the esports program at George Fox, contact Puckett at 503-554-2911 or visit georgefox.gg.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best National University.” More than 4,000 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers more than 60 academic programs, degree-completion programs for working adults, seven seminary degrees, and 14 master’s and doctoral degrees.

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Contact:
Adam Puckett
Athletic Director, George Fox University
503-554-2911

Learn more about us through the  George Fox University YouTube channel.