The Best College Varsity eSports Programs

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by Staff Writers
Published on December 7, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Playing video games in college is no longer relegated to dorm rooms. Over the past decade, collegiate eSports have dramatically grown in popularity, with the best college eSports programs boasting lucrative sponsorships and offering funding to student-athletes.

The following ranking looks at what 15 of the best college eSports programs offer to incoming students. These collegiate eSports programs maintain competitive teams, provide resources that enhance school communities, and boost career opportunities.

All of the schools on this list operate varsity eSports programs that are both competitive for prospective players and within their respective leagues. We considered the quality of school gaming facilities, campus community engagement, and access to eSports scholarships.

What Colleges Have the Best Varsity eSports Programs?

Miami University View School Profile Oxford, OH

Miami University is recognized as the first top-tier school in the United States to launch a varsity eSports program. In 2017, the school's varsity Overwatch team took first place in the National Association of Collegiate eSports Overwatch tournament. Doubling down on eSports, MU also offers groundbreaking academic programming in the field, with a nationally ranked gaming minor.

MU's eSports program includes three varsity teams competing in League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Overwatch. To further support the eSports program, the university invested in an eSports arena located on the first floor of the school's King Library. Students in the program also have the opportunity to work as counselors during an annual summer eSports camp.

Maryville University View School Profile Saint Louis, MO

Founded in 1872, Maryville University is a private school with an enrollment of over 9,000 students. Based in the St. Louis area, Maryville founded an eSports program in 2015. Maryville's League of Legends team won the 2016, 2017, and 2019 national championships. The university's varsity eSports program recruits and cultivates top collegiate gaming talent from around the world.

Maryville's eSports program focuses solely on the championship-winning League of Legends team and a nationally ranked, top-four Overwatch team. Former Maryville players and eSports professionals coach these teams. In addition to strong coaching, Maryville boasts a state-of-the-art eSports performance center for the varsity program. This center includes a lag-free environment and the best PCs on the market.

Robert Morris Experiential College View School Profile Chicago, IL

Located in the heart of Chicago and operating as part of Roosevelt University, Robert Morris Experiential College was among the first schools to offer both varsity eSports and scholarships for future players. The college's varsity eSports teams currently compete in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and League of Legends.

The school offers student-athletes a dedicated team of experienced coaches who seek to develop gaming skills while cultivating meaningful personal and academic relationships. In addition to coaching and staffing support, the varsity eSports program also maintains sponsorship deals with prominent companies like DXRacer and iBuyPower, which supply the team with cutting-edge equipment. The university houses an advanced eSports facility.

University of California, Irvine View School Profile Irvine, CA

The University of California, Irvine was the first public university to create an official eSports program. In 2015, the university saw an eSports program as both a practical extension of the successful computer game science major and a thriving gaming community. Up and running by fall 2016, the program now offers several different scholarships.

In addition to providing an entertaining and competitive community for collegiate gamers, UCI's program actively supports world-class game scholars and co-hosts an annual conference that brings together academics and industry representatives to discuss and analyze the latest research in eSports.

University of Utah View School Profile Salt Lake City, UT

While late in adopting eSports, in the fall of 2017 the University of Utah became one of the largest universities to offer varsity eSports. The U currently supports teams in Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League.

In addition to a highly competitive eSports program, The U maintains a rich history of embracing gaming. The university has offered a video game development degree since 2007.

Through sponsorships with Mountain Dew and Rockstar Energy Drink, Utah's eSports program provides athletes with cutting-edge equipment and scholarships. Student-athletes must be full-time learners with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA to keep their scholarship.

Georgia State University View School Profile Atlanta, GA

A relative newcomer to the eSports scene, Georgia State University has earned a place among the top eSports programs in the nation. Beginning competition in the fall of 2017, Georgia State now holds membership in both the National Association of Collegiate eSports and the Georgia eSports League. The university's eSports program competes in Smite, Brawlhalla, and League of Legends.

Georgia State offers scholarships to participants as a supplement to HOPE scholarships. To maintain scholarships, student-athletes must meet a high academic standard while also adhering to the university's code of conduct.

In an effort to expand participation beyond Georgia State's gaming community, the university encourages student participation in the broadcasting, production, and marketing of eSports and corresponding tournaments.

Georgia Southern University View School Profile Statesboro, GA

Based in Statesboro, Georgia, Georgia Southern University serves more than 27,000 students and offers over 140 programs at all academic levels. Along with more than 200 student organizations and Division I athletics, Georgia Southern operates a top eSports program.

Georgia Southern's students compete in Call of Duty, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, and Smite. Interested students can try out for teams of their choice, and if selected, they enjoy the same perks as any other varsity athlete. Most Georgia Southern eSport athletes walk on and are typically coached by a roster of experienced, professional gamers.

Southwest Baptist University View School Profile Bolivar, MO

Located in Bolivar, Missouri, Southwest Baptist University was founded in 1878 and is home to more than 3,000 students. Consistently ranked among the best college varsity eSports programs, SBU's team has competed since 2016.

Established to give college gamers a community and competitive outlet, SBC's eSports program exceeded expectations during their inaugural season, earning a highly-coveted playoff berth. SBU awards a scholarship in excess of $10,000 for high-level student-athletes.

SBU's eSports competitions are streamed through Twitch so that fellow learners can manage the coverage and social media promotion for the teams. SBU's team is sponsored by a diverse array of businesses like Commerce Bank, Dairy Queen, and Comfort Inn.

Kansas Wesleyan University View School Profile Salina, KS

A small liberal arts school located in Salina, Kansas, Kansas Wesleyan University is a tight-knit campus with fewer than 800 students. KWU founded the eSports team in 2015, and participation has grown substantially since the inaugural season. Currently competing in the Collegiate State League, KWU's team earned a 7-2 record in their first season of competition.

While they also play games like Hearthstone and Rocket League, KWU primarily competes in League of Legends. The university's eSports team is recognized as an official League of Legends team by Riot Games, the game's creator.

Even though the university lacks the robust funding and opulent gaming arenas of larger schools, KWU gamers still benefit from state-of-the-art PCs and gaming equipment in the Peters Science Hall. KWU's eSports team practices four times weekly.

Bellevue University View School Profile Bellevue, NE

Bellevue University is a private university based in Bellevue, Nebraska, with an enrollment of over 10,000 students. Bellevue launched an eSports program in the fall of 2017. Bellevue's program is a member of the Collegiate Star League and the National Association of Collegiate eSports.

Bellevue students-athletes compete in League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Overwatch. Bellevue also maintains a spot on the relatively short list of colleges that offer scholarships for eSport student-athletes.

The Bellevue eSports team practices and competes at the Bellevue eSports Arena. Locally known as the “Bruin Bunker,” the arena is located within the Gordon Lozier Athletic Center and is furnished with state-of-the-art gaming equipment.

Boise State University View School Profile Boise, ID

Boise State University created a college eSports program in 2017. The team's roster includes both full-time and part-time learners in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Student-athletes compete in intercollegiate play through the National Association of Collegiate eSports.

Varsity-level gaming at Boise State includes teams for League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League. Tryouts are held each summer over multiple days. When they earn a place, students gain access to the eSports training center, professional coaching, and team merchandise.

Boise State eSports also offers team members the chance to earn scholarships and additional financial aid. Students must maintain academic performance and competitive readiness and attend team practices and selected matches.

Columbia College View School Profile Columbia, MO

Competitive intercollegiate video games came to Columbia College in the fall of 2016. CC was among the first institutions in the country to offer scholarships to talented student gamers.

A member of the Collegiate Star League (CSL), CC's team competes in League of Legends against dozens of college eSports programs. The CSL has awarded nearly $300,000 in scholarships since its formation in 2009.

CC's eSports student-athletes gain access to the school's Game Hut, a state-of-the-art venue reserved specifically for eSports and other student gaming enthusiasts. Coaches with professional eSports experience lead CC's team. Interested student gamers can submit this questionnaire to start the recruitment process.

Illinois Wesleyan University View School Profile Bloomington, IL

Illinois Wesleyan University is a small liberal arts college located in Bloomington, Illinois. Founded in 1850, IWU now supports 22 varsity sports teams and began offering eSports as a sanctioned athletic option in the fall of 2018. IWU's eSports team is highly competitive, recruiting top players and offering scholarships for talented gamers.

IWU doubled down on eSports with the construction of a dedicated eSports facility located in the university's Hansen Student Center. This eSports hub offers student-athletes unlimited access to top-of-the-line equipment while acting as a communal space for other university gaming enthusiasts. The facility houses over 50 computers, two student lounges, and a broadcast studio that streams competitions.

University of Akron View School Profile Akron, OH

Located in Akron, Ohio, the University of Akron is a public research institution with an enrollment of nearly 18,000 students. While Akron entered competitive eSports relatively late, the school has quickly earned a spot among the best college eSports programs in the United States.

Since establishing the program in 2018, Akron has built three state-of-the-art gaming facilities for both varsity athletes and student hobbyists. In addition to the two gaming facilities that are open to all students, the university established the Akron eSports Arena, allowing gaming fans to watch both online and in-person eSports competitions.

In addition to college eSports, Akron also hosts an annual eSports summer camp for interested children. Student-athletes can work at the camp as counselors and coaches.

University of California, Berkeley View School Profile Berkeley, CA

The University of California, Berkeley is a competitive force within intercollegiate eSports. Racking up wins since 2009, Berkeley has won championships in Starcraft 2, Overwatch, and Dota 2. Berkeley streams both home and away matches through Twitch.

Berkeley operates the state-of-the-art Cal eSports Community Center, offering space to both varsity athletes and student gamers. Berkeley provides a holistic model built on community, competition, lifelong learning, wellness, and social good.

Berkeley is also dedicated to creating an inclusive and diverse gaming community. The school's Women in Gaming initiative seeks to increase the female population in the gaming industry and encourage women to pursue careers in eSports.

How Many Colleges Have eSports Programs?

When Robert Morris University announced a school-sanctioned and scholarship-sponsored League of Legends team, varsity collegiate eSports were born. Since then, the collegiate eSports community has grown considerably. There are now more than 120 official eSports programs across the nation.

Teams play a variety of different games and compete against other institutions in various leagues. These programs offer both a competitive outlet and provide a sense of community.

What Games Do College eSports Teams Play?

College eSports teams play a variety of games. The most popular include League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, and Overwatch. While these games are the most common for intercollegiate competition, other popular titles include Fortnite, Dota2, Call of Duty, and Rocket League.

Varsity competition in a small number of games doesn't reflect the popularity of other games across college campuses. Most university gaming facilities are open to all students who play a diverse set of games, including titles such as NBA 2K and Rainbow 6 Siege.

Can I Go to College for eSports?

In college, eSports are both a popular pastime and a competitive activity. With the rise of university-sanctioned varsity eSports, students can tackle intercollegiate competition while taking on related academic pursuits.

Programs in video game development and programming, game art/interactive media design, and computer animation all fit nicely within the competitive world of video game production. Students looking to get into the field also find computer science and software engineering degrees useful.

How Do I Get an eSports Scholarship?

As college eSports have become more and more common over the last decade, so too has the availability of scholarships for talented, varsity-level gamers. Like other popular college sports, varsity eSports receive funding through sponsorship deals, and those dollars often funnel into program scholarships.

To earn a scholarship, gamers need to stand out. Preparing and training with a purpose and actively participating in live competitions prior to tryouts are a must. Research collegiate programs to learn about requirements and expectations. Making contact with schools and cultivating relationships with coaches and staff can also prove beneficial.

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