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Oakland University First D-1 School To Add Varsity Esports Team In Michigan

From left, Greg Jordan, Director of Campus Recreation and Well Being, Chris Roumayeh, co-owner of Team Renegades, Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, President of Oakland University and Steve Waterfield, Director of Athletics.

Oakland University has become the first Division I university in the state of Michigan to formally announce the addition of a varsity esports team to its athletics program. The team will begin competition in the fall of 2020. The university also announced a unique partnership with Team Renegades, a professional esports team based at GameTime in Auburn Hills.

Esports is short for “electronic sports” and is defined as competitive multiplayer video gaming. While new, and developing at the collegiate level, esports has grown exponentially among amateur and professional gamers around the world. 

“Oakland University strives to be entrepreneurial and open to new approaches to teaching, the student experience, and learning, including novel areas of exploration,” said OU President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz. “The popularity, learning potential and student engagement possibilities of esports places Oakland in the forefront of translating what can only be described as a phenomenon into a relevant educational context, including strengthening the relationship among emerging media and academic disciplines.”

“We are very fortunate to have the support and mentorship of Team Renegades. Based at GameTime, the partnership with a professional esports team will provide support and expertise as the university launches its esports initiatives,” said Steve Waterfield, Director of Athletics for Oakland University. “Plus, the fact that GameTime is so close to our university is an added benefit.”

Like traditional sports, esports is a way for students to build school spirit and connect with fellow students. Having a varsity esports team will provide players and viewers alike another venue to share their gaming passion and pride in Oakland University. Oakland’s D-I varsity esports teams will initially compete in three games: League of Legends, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros., with the initial varsity team likely being comprised of up to 12 athletes, open to male and female gamers.

The market analytics firm Newzoo estimated that esports had more than 380 million viewers in 2018. It predicts that global viewership will top 500 million in 2020 with one significant factor being the development of collegiate gaming.

More information and media announcements will be coming in the future about the hiring of a varsity coach; the creation of an on-campus gaming location; and details on how current and future students can earn spots on the varsity roster and potential scholarship support.

Jerry Milani
Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at jerry (at) jerrymilani (dot) com.