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University of Michigan launches competitive Esports program

Students compete in Esports online.
Students compete in Esports online. (University of Michigan Esports)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan Recreational Sports department has announced the launch of a competitive Esports program.

The program spun out of the student organization previously known as Arbor Esports. Universities across the country are breaking into the competitive Esports space, with competitions starting this month.

The multiplayer video game competition is played by teams, primarily on PCs. Spectators can watch the competitions online through livestreams. The ever-growing sport has seen a steady rise in popularity over the last few years, with media outlets like ESPN reporting more and more on the sport.

Founded by Michigan alumnus Tony Yuan, Arbor Esports has had success with top teams in Rocket League, League of Legends, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone and more.

Yuan said the adoption of Esports into the recreational sports department was a much needed measure.

“We made this change because we heard our teams asking for support with travel, coaching, and events," Avi Lessure, Michigan Esports officer, said in a statement. “As a sponsored student organization we will be able to provide vehicles for events, and funds for team development as well as have additional resources to make our events just that much better.”

Student coordinator for the Esports program at Michigan, Alex Downs, said the university’s support is ultimately a recognition of its competitors' passions.

“This sponsorship is exciting because competing in Esports isn’t just a hobby for some students," Downs said in a statement. “It’s a passion. A passion that many students on campus share. A passion that relies on health, wellness, teamwork and communication. The university is endorsing the hard work of alumni and the campus community. That kind of support is incredibly valuable to those students who are truly dedicated to their craft.”

According to Michigan’s director of recreational sports, Mike Widen, the timing worked out well for the Esports program since in-person events on campus are limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Esports is growing in popularity all over the world, and we are seeing a significant growth in the number of student Esports groups who want to represent their respective college or university, the same way as in traditional sports,” Widen said in a statement.

“In many of the same ways we build community among our students through traditional recreation programs, Esports provides that same opportunity for community building among students through their common interest in gaming. This new program will allow us to reach students who are not engaging with our programs and facilities otherwise.”

The recreational sports department plans to raise money for a dedicated physical location on campus via corporate sponsorships and private and corporate donations. The program is currently seeking sponsors for funds and equipment.

The UCLA Esports Summer Invitational - League of Legends will take place on Sept. 29 and 30.

For more information, visit the Michigan Esports website.

Those interested in watching streamed matches can do so on Twitch.

To become a sponsor or to make a donation, email Lexi Chaput at lexic@umich.edu or call 734-764-8861.


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