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Harrisburg University to field eSports team

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Harrisburg University isn't likely to become a football or basketball powerhouse, and President Eric Darr is fine with that.

Darr is, however, enthusiastic about HU’s chances of becoming a major player in the world of collegiate eSports, in which teams face off over video games as spectators cheer them on.

The university this week said it has joined the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE), and will offer 15 full athletic scholarships, making eSports the university’s first varsity sport. The program is expected to begin in fall 2018.

“eSports is by far our largest club on campus,” said Darr, adding that the move to competitive play was “a logical and natural next step.”

School officials have begun a national search for a full-time coach who is either a current or formerly ranked World Gamer.

The varsity team will have the opportunity to compete in some of the most popular eSports games around the world, including “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone.” Harrisburg University will field a five-person team for each game.

Darr could not say how much the program and scholarships will cost, but added that the university is seeking partners for sponsorship opportunities. It also isn’t clear where the team’s home venue will be, but Darr said the school is looking at options.

Whatever the investment, he feels the program will advance tech education, teamwork and networking among students, while increasing the university’s visibility in the growing eSports arena.

Harrisburg University is the first Mid-Atlantic institution to join NACE. While the nascent field seems divided on whether to spell the activity eSports or Esports, its ranks are growing: NACE started with seven colleges and universities in July 2016, during the inaugural Collegiate Esports Summit held in Kansas City, Mo. With Harrisburg’s addition, the number of members has reached 50.

“Our goal is to sponsor eSports programs on campuses with the same level of attention and support given to traditional athletics,” NACE executive director Michael Brooks said. “We’re excited to have Harrisburg University join our roster as we continue to grow this program.”

That opportunity is what has drawn students to Harrisburg University’s eSports club, with several members excited about the chance to apply for scholarships and a spot on the new varsity team.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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